Prentice Herman “P.H.” Polk (1898-1985) is not a name you’d hear in a typical Photo History class or lecture but I consider him to be a photography pioneer. When he was denied admission to photography schools because of his color, Polk took correspondence courses and excelled at his craft.
He received training from African-American photographer C.M. Battey as a student at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) and eventually became the official photographer of the institute and later head of their photography department. Chester Higgins, Jr. the first African-American photographer hired at The New York Times trained under Polk at Tuskegee.
I love this photo of Polk in action at his enlarger, it’s rare that we see African-American photographers in action or in studio mode. Polk went on to photograph prominent African-American artists and intellectuals like Lena Horne and Pearl Buck.
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