I began to document street photography studios set up on the streets
in Atlanta and New Orleans in the late 1990s, as I researched my disser-
tation on late nineteenth- century and early twentieth- century photo-
graphs of Jamaica and the Bahamas. In the course of this work I was
always frustrated by the lack of information on local black photogra-
phers and the communities they pictured, while the photographs by
and histories of British colonials, white local elites, or tourists could
more easily be traced in the archives. Indeed some of the latter pho-
tographers seemed to preserve their images and papers with a sense of
their historical importance, with the archives in mind as their eventual
destination. An exhibition I curated in 2008 at the National Art Gal-
lery of the Bahamas, Developing Blackness: Studio Photographs of “Over
the Hill” Nassau in the Independence Era, was an attempt to provide an
alternate or an “other” history of photography (to use Christopher Pin-
ney’s and Nicholas Peterson’s term) in the Bahamas, one that focused
on the studio photographs created in the island’s black communities.
Over the years when I researched black photographers in Nassau, my
efforts were dogged by a sense among many that these popular photo-
graphic practices and their material remains were not significant or
valuable. Decades- old negative collections were thrown away, were left
in insect- infested cabinets, and were never collected by local institu-
tions. I started documenting the contemporary popular photographic
practices that I present in this study not for the purpose of making a
book but to forestall a future absence. In this respect, I see this book as a
type of historical study, one that creates a record that is ever mindful of
the conditions of race and class and place that facilitate the disappear-
ance of black subjects from the photographic archive.
I am eternally grateful to the photographers and videographers who
took the time to share their images, histories, and knowledge of their
trades with me, eventually trusting that I was not a business competitor
or tax collector. I especially thank photographers and photo backdrop
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