When the Lexington Camera Club first asked Washington Post photojournalist Jahi Chikwendiu to curate its new show at the Loudon House, he hesitated.
“When I look at the membership of Lexington Camera Club, it is not diverse and I question even my own involvement with an organization with such lack of diversity,” said Chikwendiu, who grew up here. “But I know some of the people and I know they’re good people. One of the reasons I’m doing this is not just to curate the Lexington Camera Club, but because it’s an opportunity to connect with young, brown-skinned photographers in Lexington.”
That’s because “What Endures,” which opens Friday, will feature the work of Camera Club members along with that of the Community Inspired Solutions Digital Photography Club, an after school program for kids.
The theme, “What Endures,” was meant to encompass the past year of pandemic and lockdown, said Guy Mendes, one of the original members of the Lexington Camera Club, which started in 1936, but shut down shortly after the 1972 death of one of its stars, Ralph Eugene Meatyard. The Club reconstituted in 2014, and tries to have shows every two years.
Chikwendui, who worked for the Herald-Leader for two years before moving to the Post in 2001, is recovering from a broken foot, and won’t be able to attend the opening event, but hopes to return for the closing on Oct. 8, when he will hold a workshop with the CIS students.
He’s now traveled all over the world as a photojournalist for the Post, but has included five of his own prints in the show from his days in Lexington. One of those is a shot that he submitted as a freelancer to the Herald-Leader, but editors decided that the photo of two young, Black boys eating watermelon would get too many complaints. It was also part of a show at the Blue Grass Airport, but taken down early because viewers didn’t like the stereotype.
“I do not adhere to the whatever stereotypes there are about Black people and watermelon,” he said. “Like Toni Morrison, i work not to function or create with the ‘white gaze’ in mind.”
The shot has endured, and as Jahi said in his curator statement: “I encourage anyone within reach of my words, anyone within eyeshot of this collection, to explore these visual expressions — some quaintly familiar, some seemingly from other worlds. Give seeing to how each of these photographers has visually ordered the isolation and upheaval of these times, the peace and the chaos of this era. Give hearing to their varied visual voices, speaking in effort to figure how to endure in these days.”
“What Endures: Photographs From An Uncertain Time” will open at the Loudon House on Friday, Sept. 17 from 5-8 p.m.