James Baldwin Photography Exhibit

Photography exhibit showcasing the 60th birthday celebration of writer James Baldwin. | Central Library | All Ages

Celebrating James Baldwin Page Header

Central Library – Wellman Hall Art Wall, and Rotunda
Ongoing through February 2023 | Open Hours | All Ages

The library is thrilled to host a photography exhibit curated by local and beloved photographer, Edward Cohen.

The exhibit is being kicked off with a free talk and reception Sunday, December 18th from 1 to 4 p.m.

The Central Library will be home to Cohen’s photography exhibit celebrating the late American writer, James Baldwin. Photos of Baldwin’s 60th birthday celebrations at the UMASS Campus Center and Amherst College, along with friends such as Maya Angelou, will be on display.

Ed Cohen is a Springfield, MA based freelance photographer who has been photographing in the Pioneer Valley since 1975. He attended UMass Amherst and received a degree in Communications Studies with a concentration in Afro-American and Diversity in Communications. Cohen is a published author, exhibition curator, and an accomplished political demonstration, musical and community events photographer; having participated and captured many local monumental moments for the city of Springfield and surrounding areas. He takes pride in presenting diversity in his imagery.

Cohen received a grant from The Springfield Cultural Council in order to showcase Baldwin’s birthday celebration. He says, “I had the honor of being given permission to take photos at James Baldwin’s birthday celebrations in August of 1984. In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown I edited several of the negatives of Baldwin and his close friend Maya Angelou and had time to publish a photo book and eventually to create a photo exhibit of the Birthday party events. James Baldwin remains an important figure because of his activism around racial and sexual discrimination and his literary genius. I felt it was a great time to have an event to feature the photos to generate a discussion about James Baldwin and the issues that he was so passionate about.”

UMass Professor Emeritus, Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, will serve as reception speaker. A pioneer in Afro-American Studies, in 1970 Thelwell became the founding chairman of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department. The Jamaican-born writer, activist, educator, came to the United States in 1959 to attend Howard University and went on to do his graduate work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Ayana Irene Pierre-Maxwell, currently a freshman at University of Miami, will present a painting based on a photo taken by Cohen at a UMass Commencement in 1978 where Baldwin received an honorary degree.

Pierre-Maxwell says, “While I did not take the photo, I am honored and delighted to have painted this image of the inspirational James Baldwin. I hope that when people view my art they are able to separate themselves from their world and enter mine [and] my work can evoke an emotion in those who view it.”

The exhibition is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible. The exhibit will be on display through the end of Black History Month in February 2023.

This exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the Springfield Cultural Council, a local agency of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Springfield City Library, and Monson Savings Bank.