Surrounded by a montage of vintage photographs, more than a dozen from his vast collection, Chuck Stewart is in a comfortable cove to relate bits and pieces of his remarkable life. “I guess if I hadn’t been a photographer, I might have been an economist since I did pretty well in those classes in college,” he said without a trace of regret.
And at 85, with an archive of photos of notables to his credit, including a veritable pantheon of jazz greats, Stewart appears quite content to rest on his considerable laurels. “I don’t need a lot of money, though I do have grandchildren in school,” he said. “But they’ll be all right and I’ve got enough income to get by.”
If he can sell just a few of his photos on the display at the Keith De Lellis Gallery on Madison Avenue on the upper west side of Manhattan, he would be tidied over for a spell or two. One of the more fletching ones is of John Coltrane fingering his flute; another one of Gil Scott Heron, perhaps on a Harlem street is compelling.
Stewart is the senior of the four photographers comprising the Art & Soul exhibit, and he’s in good company with the likes of Leroy Henderson, Chester Higgins, Jr. and Anthony Barboza.
All of the photos are black and white and cover a wide swath of African American experience and culture. Henderson’s roving camera has provocatively documented a variety of rallies and demonstrations, and a good sample of that is captured during a civil rights rally at City College in 1967.
Higgins, whose photos often appear in the New York Times where he has been on the staff for years, loves to look through the lens on ordinary Americans, particularly young people who are more than willing subjects. A farmer’s daughter in Mississippi peers back at him with a bemused expression.
Barboza, of the illustrious and highly productive family of writers and artists, likes to profile the flash and dash of the ghetto, and an elderly gent, finely outfitted leans against a car with all the panache of a denizen of the sporting life.
This is a very impressive quartet of African American photographers whose careers, taken together, embody the scope and depth of the Black experience, and the exhibit will stand until March 23.
The Keith De Lellis Gallery is located at 1045 Madison Ave. #3, New York, NY 10075. 212-327-1482. The hours are Tues-Fri, 11-5:30pm; Sat. 11:30 to 5pm.