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Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun

2021 State Fellow

Photo of the artists by Adrienne Battistella

Recipient Information


New Orleans, Louisiana



Year of Award


Grant or Fellowship

Southern Prize and State Fellowship

Grant Amount


Artist Biography

Since the early 1980s, photographers Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick have chronicled the African American experience in New Orleans and the surrounding Louisiana parishes. Working collaboratively, they preserve the unique traditions and deep-rooted attributes of Louisiana culture. Their images bear witness to both the celebrations and struggles of everyday events, with attention to the profound sense of place felt by Louisianans. Calhoun and McCormick were born in New Orleans. They are both from the Lower 9th Ward, a neighborhood that, prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, boasted the largest concentration of African American homeowners in the United States. Their photographic archive was nearly destroyed by hurricane Katrina, yet their work has proved resilient.

Calhoun and McCormick have documented the soul of New Orleans and a vanishing Louisiana: the demise of manual laborers in the sugar cane fields of Louisiana, the dockworkers and longshoreman on the New Orleans waterfront, the sweet potato harvesters in Lake Providence, and the displacement of African Americans after Katrina. They have photographically recorded the traditions of black church services and religious rituals; community rites and celebrations, such as parades, and jazz funerals; As part of their labor series, their documentation has covered the cruel conditions of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a former slave-breeding plantation named for the African nation from which “the most profitable” slaves, according to slave owners, were kidnapped.

Photo of the artists by Adrienne Battistella.

Artist Statement

We are New Orleans Louisiana based Visual Artists. Our work is about Humanity, Community, and is Environmentally Centered. We choose to focus on the unsung heroes. Our mission is to record the issues and express the human experience. We strive to creatively tell stories through imagery of the people and places we’ve experience as we do this work. We feel it is important when making images, that we portray our subject in the best light to display their dignity, beauty, and strength, through photo essays accompanied by a written narrative.