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Gerald Cyrus

by Synatra Smith, Ph.D. on 2022-06-09T12:00:00-04:00 in Black Artists | 0 Comments

Gerald Cyrus is an African American photographer whose style is influenced by jazz and the blues. Cyrus commented, “I prefer the black-and-white aesthetic because of the tonalities I can exploit, and because it focuses the viewer’s attention on the underlining meanings of the image.”[1] Born in 1957 in Los Angeles, Cyrus started taking photographs in 1984. In 1990 he moved to New York, where he would spend the next decade documenting the musical culture of Harlem and Manhattan. Cyrus earned an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1992. While a student, he interned at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem under the Philadelphia-born photographer Deborah Willis. He also began working on his Kinship series, which depicts his family members in Long Island, New Orleans, North Carolina, and Los Angeles in ways that center the viewer’s own interpretation rather than imposing a political or emotional agenda. On the topic of the role of Black identity politics in his work, Cyrus explained, “I don’t consider my work overtly political, but I think anytime you portray Black people in an intimate and insightful manner, you’re going against the history of negative portrayals that have defined the media in this country.”[2] He was an artist-in-residence at Light Work in Syracuse in 1995, and in 2000 relocated to Philadelphia, where he teaches at Haverford College and is a member of the Kamoinge Inc. Black photographers collective. Cyrus received the Sacatar Foundation fellowship to live and work in Bahia, Brazil, for eight weeks in 2002. While working on his series Gerald Cyrus: Portrait of Camden, New Jersey, in Photographs 2001–2008, he built rapport with his sitters by sharing his negatives with them, and was thus able to create more intimate and personal portraits. 

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[1] Cyrus, quoted in Gustave 2021.

[2] Ibid.



Cyrus, Gerald. n.d. Artist’s website. Accessed March 15, 2022.

Gustave, Tim. 2021. “Q&A with Professor of Photography and Kamoinge Inc. Member, Gerald Cyrus.” Blackfists, May 23, 2021. Accessed March 15, 2022.

Haverford College. n.d. “Gerald Cyrus: Portrait of Camden in Photographs 2001–2008.” Fine Arts Department Exhibitions. Accessed March 15, 2022.

Henry, Lisa. 1996. “Gerald Cyrus.” Light Work Collection. Accessed March 15, 2022.

US Department of State. n.d. “Gerald Cyrus.” Art in Embassies. Accessed March 15, 2022.


Further Reading

Obisanya, Stephen. 2021. “Photographs as Cultural Imprints: Gerald Cyrus.” Artisans & Trade podcast, March 4, 2021.

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