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The early years of Rhythm and Blues explored in exhibition organized at the International Center of Photography
Benny Joseph, KCOH disk jockey Skipper Lee Frazier and go-go girls, Houston, 1965. © Benny Joseph. Courtesy International Center of Photography.


JERSEY CITY, NJ.- The International Center of Photography is presenting The Early Years of Rhythm and Blues: Photographs by Benny Joseph from the Documentary Arts Collection, on view at ICP Mana until January 10, 2016.

Drawn from ICP’s recent acquisition of the Texas African American Photography (TAAP) Archive, the exhibition consists of 50 black and white prints by Houston photographer Benny Joseph (b. 1924).

Tracing the rise of rhythm and blues music in the 1950s and 1960s within the context of civil rights movement, it features portraits of such celebrated performers as B.B. King, Sam “Lightnin’”Hopkins, Junior Parker, Mahalia Jackson, and Della Reese. The exhibition also includes Joseph’s striking portraits of prominent African Americans of the same era, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and Barbara Jordan.

Benny Joseph studied photography with A.C. Teal, a community photographer who established a school for African American photographers in Houston in 1942. Like his fellow students, Joseph had to “do it all” to make a living as a photographer: portraits, news photos, advertising, and social events. Although studio photography was the mainstay of his business, he also worked for the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), KCOH radio station, and the Peacock Record Company. Peacock Records, started in 1949 by Houston entrepreneur Don Robey, became the most successful black-owned independent record company prior to Motown. The label featured some of the most prolific rhythm and blues artists of the 1950s and 1960s.

The Early Years of Rhythm and Blues is organized by ICP and Documentary Arts, a Dallas and New York City-based nonprofit group established in 1985. Alan Govenar, the founder of Documentary Arts, is guest curator of the exhibition.

The TAAP Archive, founded by Govenar and Kaleta Doolin, consists of 60,000 works made primarily by 20th century African American community photographers active in rural and urban Texas. It is the centerpiece of more than 100,000 photographs, films, videos, audio recordings, and new media works donated to ICP by Documentary Arts in 2014.






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