Podcast: Internal Thoughts about Past Histories—Aaron Turner and Laylah Amatullah Barrayn


On this week’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast, we present a conversation with two photographers. We start with Aaron Turner, who is also a scholar, an archivist, and the host of the podcast “Photographers of Color.” Turner stays with us as we speak later with Laylah Amatullah Barrayn about her street portraiture during the COVID-19 outbreak in New York and  the recent uprising in Minneapolis.

With Turner, we talk about the genesis of The Center for Photographers of Color, which is currently located at the School of Arts at the University of Arkansas, and how it grew from a Twitter feed as an attempt to recognize and connect the many African-American photographers both currently working and of historical significance and influence. We discuss the Center and its research, exhibition, archiving goals, and overall mission to develop and maintain a community of photographers. We also chat with Turner about his personal photography and how that has evolved over the years from photojournalism to documentary to a more conceptual form integrating personal and cultural histories.

After a break, we welcome Laylah Amatullah Barrayn and jump right into a conversation about her decision to return to her Brownsville, Brooklyn, neighborhood to photograph the residents during the early uncertain days of the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to an assignment on funeral directors, she created a wonderful series on the fashion and cultural statements of wearing a mask. We also speak about her work in Minneapolis during the June uprising there, and how she focused on portraiture of the residents, as opposed to the protests themselves. We also discuss technique with a FUJIFILM mirrorless system and a 35mm lens, the need to bear witness, the value of working with a community of photographers, and the “power of the archive.”

Join us for this wide-ranging and passionate conversation about the importance of recognizing tradition, supporting your fellow photographers, and pushing for necessary changes within the photography sphere and the culture at large.

Guests: Aaron Turner and Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Photograph © Aaron Turner

Looking at Drue King, from The Black Alchemy, Vol 2 series, 2018 © Aaron Turner
Untitled, from The Black Alchemy, Vol. 1 series, 2015 © Aaron Turner
Great Uncle Sammie's Funeral, Marion, Arkansas, 2014 © Aaron Turner
Bethel A.M.E. Church, Lansing, Arkansas, 2015 © Aaron Turner
Terrence D., Dumas, Arkansas, 2015 © Aaron Turner
Lougè Delcy, also known as Dapper Lou, wears a custom-designed mask near the entrance of Prospect Park, May, 2020 © Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Aïssatou, from Conakry, Guinea, waits for the shuttle train at the Prospect Park station, Brooklyn, May 2020 © Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Minneapolis, June, 2020 © Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Minneapolis, June, 2020 © Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Mutual aid networks, distributing food and supplies in north Minneapolis, June 2020 © Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Senior Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves