Skip to Main Content

Four Elements

Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe

by Synatra Smith, Ph.D. on 2021-09-09T12:00:00-04:00 in Black Artists | 0 Comments

Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe is an African American photographer, activist, and educator. She was born July 9, 1951, in Chicago, and was introduced to the arts by her mother, an interior designer, and her father, an architect. She had access to art and art books at home, including a book by African American photographer Gordon Parks. Moutoussamy-Ashe’s parents enrolled her in children’s art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, and at the age of fifteen Frank Stewart, a friend of the family, introduced her to photography.[1] 

Moutoussamy-Ashe earned a BFA in photography from Cooper Union in New York in 1975, during which time she studied under Garry Winogrand at Cooper Union as well as at the Art Institute of Chicago. Shortly thereafter, in 1977, she had a transformational experience in apartheid South Africa that impacted her work in the United States. She began using “humanist street photography,” which centers the everyday lives of marginalized people.[2] Moutoussamy-Ashe was introduced to Alex Haley, author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976) through her husband, legendary tennis player Arthur Ashe, and asked Haley to write the introduction to Daufuskie Island: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe (1982). This project has since expanded to raise awareness about the Gullah community on the island, where the tourist economy is displacing their unique history.[3]

Moutoussamy-Ashe went on to become a photojournalist for the New York television stations WNBC and WNEW and the television program PM Magazine. She also taught visual literacy at the private Dalton School in New York, from 1996 to 1999. Moutoussamy-Ashe has done official portraits for several US Cabinet members and is a founding member of the Black Family Cultural Exchange, an organization that hosts book fairs for Black children and raises funds for scholarships and book purchases for community centers. She is the current director of the Arthur Ashe Endowment for the Defeat of AIDS.[4]


PMA Collection

PMA Library



[1] Brooks 2014; Hine, Brown, and Terborg-Penn 1993. 

[2] Dardashti 2019. 

[3] Brooks 2014; Moutoussamy-Ashe n.d.

[4] Brooks 2014; Hine, Brown, and Terborg-Penn 1993; Moutoussamy-Ashe n.d.



Brooks, Kalia. 2014. “Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.” BOMB Magazine. Accessed July 8, 2021.


Dardashti, Abigail Lapin. 2019. “Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe.” Museum of Modern Art. Accessed July 8, 2021.


Hine, Darlene Clark, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn. 1993. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Volume II. Brooklyn: Carlson.

Moutoussamy-Ashe, Jeanne. n.d. Artist’s website. Accessed July 8, 2021.

 Add a Comment



Enter your e-mail address to receive notifications of new posts by e-mail.



Black Artists

  Follow Us

  Return to Blog
This post is closed for further discussion.