Institute for Arts and Media

Black Photographers of California

Black Photographers of California Founded 1984

The Black Photographers of California (BPC) was founded to provide a place for the vision of black photographers and a more complete history of the black experience, particularly in California. Co-founded by Roland Charles in 1984, the BPC expanded over the next twenty years to include an international network of photographers. The BPC has donated its collections to the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center for preservation.

In 1984 Roland Charles co-founded Black Photographers of California (BPC) as a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to preserving and presenting the work of established and emerging African American photographers. The association also preserved African American history and culture through photography. BPC raised awareness of photography as a fine art and as a profession. In 1986 BPC began and operated the exhibition space, Black Gallery, in the Crenshaw district. Black Gallery provided a venue for presenting exhibitions, programs, and special projects about photography. The Gallery also promoted interactions of African American photographers with other people as exhibited in Collaborations, which displayed 14 African American and Korean photographers.

The BPC archives consist of over one thousand negatives from the collections of African American photographers. Images depict Los Angeles street scenes, community, social and political activities, and public figures. The core of the archives depicts members and leaders of African American community organizations, politicians, and individuals from the entertainment sector in family and public settings. Images of entertainers include Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, June Allyson, Ivan Dixon, and Don Mitchell.

Photographer Roland Charles, conceived of the idea for the exhibition Life in the Day of Black LA: The Way We See It, a joint project with UCLA’s Center for African American Studies. The exhibition was displayed as several locations throughout Los Angeles in the early 1990s before traveling to Europe. The book Life in the Day of Black L.A followed the exhibition and attempted to redress the negative imagery of Africa-Americans that disseminates from Hollywood and permeates perceptions throughout the world.

After Charles passing in 2000, James Jeffrey Jr. took over as Executive Director of the BPC. Twenty years after its founding, Black Gallery shut its doors in the Santa Barbara Plaza due to redevelopments efforts in the shopping center. The archives of BPC were donated to the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center at California State University Northridge. Members of BPC and collections in the archives include Roland Charles, Calvin Hicks, Maxie Floyd, James Jeffrey, Charles Williams, Harry Adams, Bob Douglas, Bob Moore, and Joe Flowers. 

Collection Includes:
Barbara McNair-Singer
Don Newcombe-Athlete
Eartha Kitt
Emperor Haile Selassie I
Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin
Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge
Jawaharlal Nehru
Joe Louis
Kenneth Hahn (only elected official to meet Dr. King at LAX in early 60’s)
Louis Jordan
Mahalia Jackson
Nat King Cole
President Dwight Eisenhower
President Lyndon Johnson
Ray Charles
The Million-Man March
The Watts Riot