A Virtual Exhibition
The Muskegon Museum of Art presented SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male, portraits of black men from greater Muskegon photographed by artist Jerry Taliaferro, December 13, 2018 through March 10, 2019. We organized the exhibition with the advisement and help of a committee of African American men from the Muskegon area. In the spirit of community, we again present the SONS portraits in this virtual exhibition.
About the Exhibition
SONS was meant to explore how the black American male perceives himself and how others perceive him. At the time of the original exhibition, artist Jerry Taliaferro stated, “[The exhibition] is both timely and relevant. Recent events point to the urgent need for conversations about the contemporary black American male. Any effort, however humble, to foster an understanding of this largely misunderstood and often marginalized segment of the American population is of utmost importance.” The effort to foster understanding and respect is needed as much now as it was then.
A committee of their peers nominated the men pictured in the show from the greater Muskegon area. The goal was to portray a wide range of ages, backgrounds, occupations, and interests to best represent not only the black men of our community, but also to mirror the day-to-day experiences of their fellow Americans. It was the first time many of these men were publicly recognized.
The men pictured are artists, musicians, barbers, doctors, lawyers, health care workers, engineers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, teachers, athletes, retired servicemen, clergy, poets, factory workers, laborers, security guards, school administrators, and coaches. They are also husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, co-workers, teammates, friends, and neighbors.
The first part of the exhibition features black and white photographs that do not indicate professions or pastimes. The second part features color photographs with items and apparel indicate these activities, as well as expressing more of the subjects’ outward personalities.
Learn about the men in SONS. THE MEN’S STORIES [pdf]
Click on each of the thumbnail pictures to see full portraits.
About the Artist
Jerry Taliaferro was born in the small southern town of Brownsville, Tennessee. After graduating high school in May 1972, he joined the Army. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1973 and graduated as a member of the Class of 1977. Taliaferro’s interest in photography began during his post at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for Special Forces training in 1981. While serving in Germany, his interest in photography continued and, in 1985, his work was published for the first time when a Munich magazine purchased the rights to one of his images. Jerry returned to the U.S. and began doing assignments for advertising and design firms in 1985. He left the military in 1988 and began a career in commercial photography. Over the ensuing years, his interest turned more to fine art photography. This change in direction has resulted in several projects and published pieces. Women of a New Tribe, a photographic study of the spiritual and physical beauty of black women, is one of his latest projects. Jerry Taliaferro currently resides in Charlotte, NC.
Special thanks to the members of the SONS Committee, without which this exhibition would not have been possible: TJ Chappel, Jon Covington, Chris Dean, Arthur Garner, Ed Garner, Justin Jennings, Bernard Loudermill, William Muhammad, Marvin Nash, Dr. Dale Nesbary, Kelly Richards, J. Arthur Sanders, Andrew Sims, George Walker, Rodney Walker, James Waters, and Jonathan Wilson.
SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male was underwritten by Fifth Third Bank, and co-sponsored by Arconic – Whitehall Operations and Warner Norcross + Judd LLP. Program support was also provided by the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Media Partner was WGVU Public Media.