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"I always felt that the black community was a place you experienced various types of time warp."

The history of photography in the black community [of Carbondale] was that white students would go in and spy on the black community. The whole association with a 35 mm camera was very threatening to the people who lived in that community because they associated it with the students. No one was brave enough to actually go in and confront those people, introduce themselves and learn about those people’s lives. For me, going in the year before with a 4 x 5 medium-format camera, I would have to ask people to sit down and I actually went into their houses and I got to meet people. The next year, 1982, I used a toy camera because I thought it was less threatening than a 35 mm camera. I took bar scenes too, and that made it even easier, to go into bars with a toy camera.

– Carl Robert Pope Jr.

History is something photographer Carl Pope thinks about a lot. The history of photography is evident in the way he presents this picture, a hand-colored black-and-white print with homemade edges. The man in this picture seems stuck in history. His clothes, his hairstyle, the jukebox in the background all place him in a very specific time and place (not now).

“I think about how the past is so visually present when you walk through the black community [of Carbondale] because the black community was in ruins," recalled Pope. "The way people dressed, their clothes were past fashion. I always felt that the black community was a place you experienced various types of time warp. To me, the mark of how well a particular black community is doing is how much of that community is in present time. I ask myself when I am in some weird town and I am going into a black community, do I feel like I’m in the present moment, or do I feel like it’s 1970 or 1950?”


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Minneapolis Institute of Arts