Lewis Watts - Likeness or Not: Reflections from the African Diaspora

Lewis Watts
Delphine Sims, Oakland, California, 2020
Archival pigment print
Gift of the Artist

Lewis Watts
Crisis, May 1920, 2016
Archival inkjet print
Gift of the artist


Lewis Watts - Likeness or Not: Reflections from the African Diaspora

April 23, 2022 to September 04, 2022

“For more than 50 years, the thrust of my photography practice and research has been grounded by an interest in the culture, history, and migration of people of the African diaspora. This comes from my roots as the offspring of Southern born parents who traveled west as part of the Great Migration of the Twentieth Century. The work has evolved into a variety of related series two of which are represented in the exhibition; portraits of folks who I have been drawn to photograph because they are not letting outside forces determine how they present themselves to the world and who seem to be comfortable in their own skins and historical African American book covers and pages as both objects and reflections of the narrative of history and in some cases briefs for White supremacy”. – Lewis Watts

Lewis Watts is a photographer, archivist and professor emeritus of art at the University of California, Santa Cruz with a longstanding interest in the cultural landscape of the African diaspora in the US and internationally. He is the co-author of Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era.

The exhibition highlights an impressive grouping of photographs by Watts gifted to the JSMA that includes portraits of artists, activists, authors, and musicians along with his sourcing of important historical publications acquired from archival holdings of African American cultural institutions. The exhibition is organized by Thom Sempere, JSMA, Associate Curator of Photography.