AFRICAN-AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER (PRENTICE HERMAN POLK)
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts presents Through These Eyes: The Photographs of PH. Polk. Organized and circulated by the University Gallery, University of Delaware, this exhibition will be on view August 26 through October 22, 2000. (left: The Pipe Smoker, 1932, Paul R. Jones Collection, Atlanta, GA)
Prentice Herman Polk taught photography at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama from 1928 to 1938, and in 1933 he became head of the photography department at the school. From 1939 until his death in 1984, he held the position of official photographer at Tuskegee University and had one of the few private studios in the Macon County area, where he became a well-known portrait photographer.
From the dignitaries who visited Tuskegee and the middle class African-Americans who frequented his studio to the farmers and laborers who worked the cotton fields of rural Macon County, Polk’s images of Southern life exemplify his keen ability to tell a riveting human story through the camera’s eye. Included in this exhibition is a selection of vintage photographs of the acclaimed scientist George Washington Carver in his lab conducting experiments, in the fields surveying crops, lecturing students, and pursuing leisure activities. Carver, like Polk, served as both an educator and mentor for the students of Tuskegee and inspired many throughout the nation. P.H. Polk’s photographs of Carver provide an extraordinary vehicle for communicating the truth and legend of this charismatic and renowned figure. (left: Catherine Moton Patterson, 1936, Paul R. Jones Collection, Atlanta, GA; right: George Wshington Carver in Laboratory, 1930, Paul R. Jones Collection, Atlanta, GA)
Paul R. Jones of Atlanta, Georgia, an avid collector of Polk’s works, has lent dozens of photographs that compose the bulk of the exhibition. Other lenders include P.H. Polk family members and the Tuskegee University Archives. An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, which is traveling nationally, with contributions from scholars and experts in the fields of photography, Southern social history, and the African-American experience. (left: The Playground (Basketball), 1939-1946, Paul R. Jones Collection, Atlanta, GA)