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Posted at 11:19 AM ET, 11/28/2011

Black photographers tell their stories

Camera flashes lit up the Center for Green Urbanism as African-American photographers huddled around Gloria Kirk, a petite woman dressed in all black with green eyeshadow.

Gloria Kirk began her career in photography after retiring from a foreign service position in 1996. (Macy L. Freeman - The Washington Post)
Kirk, 66, picked up a camera after she retired from the Foreign Service and hasn’t put it down since. She was one of several members of The Exposure Group African American Photographers Association whose work is currently on display at the Center for Green Urbanism on Benning Road in Northeast.

“You have your own story to tell and you need to get it out there otherwise other people will tell your story for you, and it’s going to be wrong,” she said, “so you tell your own story in whatever manner is comfortable for you,” Kirk said.

On a recent weekend, the Exposure Group, founded in 1978, gathered to admire each other’s work. The photographs on the wall reflect images from across the globe.

Sharon Farmer, 60, was born and raised in southeast Washington. She was the White House photographer during Bill Clinton’s administration. Her time there made Farmer “real clear about how government works and how it doesn’t.” She doesn’t like the term “black photography.”

“Why can’t it just be photography?” she said. “We would embrace everybody else much more than they’ll ever embrace us. Unfortunately, racism is still alive and well in America, and it’s even spread out across the world courtesy of how we depict people in entertainment.”

Zandra Chesnut and her husband Dennis own the Center for Green Urbanism. When Chestnut began shooting photos of her community, she honed in on how much trash she saw. She joined the Exposure Group to better her skills as a photographer and said she wants people to see how littering affects their community.

“Here at the Center our mission is to make folks aware of their environment,” she said.

According to Chesnut, the materials used at the Center are recyclable, energy efficient and environmentally safe. The photos in the “A Sense of Place” gallery will be up at the Center for viewing until Dec. 3.

For more information on the Center for Green Urbanism, visit and for more information on the Exposure Group, visit

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