The Joys of Style and Sound come through in Marching Bands, a Newly Published Book by Celebrated Photographer and Queensborough Professor Jules Allen
A young band member runs late for formation, carrying a Sousaphone that nearly dwarfs him; the Morgan State band in Baltimore does its low-bowing warm-up drills with flair; and, in New Orleans a majorette high steps with style to lead the way during a parade.
These are just three of the many striking images in Marching Bands, a photographic essay on black marching bands across America, by Jules T. Allen, Professor in the Department of Art and Design at Queensborough Community College.
Professor Allen, who began documenting black marching bands in the 1970s, is a celebrated photographer renowned for capturing the powerful and essential truths of the contemporary black experience.
“I became fascinated with the rhythm and the movement of marching bands. Their contagious energy pulsates with the kind of beat and timing that I believe is specific to African-American sensibility.”
He is also a dedicated teacher and enthusiastic champion of his students. “Bring students with you into your creative experience. I teach and I do. If you don’t do it, you can’t teach it.”
Indeed, several of his advanced students were actively involved in scanning and editing photographs for Marching Bands.
The book, which combines his interests in style, music and sport, was published in collaboration with the QCC Art Gallery; a partnership he says, that is an “essential component of his progress and support.”
Executive Director Faustino Quintanilla noted that four of the five books by Professor Allen were published by the Gallery, including the Gallery’s first ever published book, Hats and Hats Not (1993), which accompanied Professor Allen’s first QCC Art Gallery exhibit.
“I met Jules in the early 1990’s,” said Faustino. “At that time photography was the most important certificate program in the department. We began a lecture series promoting photography from all over the country; renowned photographers would guest lecture to students and other members of the college community and then donate their selected works to the gallery, significantly expanding our permanent collection.”
Through the years the QCC Art Gallery has published additional photography books, including a premiere publication of Flying Clouds, by Bing Yang. Other books highlight the Gallery’s acclaimed African Art collection such as Powerful Arts of Cameroon; Shangaa, Art of Tanzania; Jacana, a bilingual Journal of African culture; Bundu, Sowie Headpieces and The Imperato Family Collection. A recent publication marked the acquisition last spring of more than 40 sculptures by renowned artist Wenzhi Zhang, “Metaphysical Thinking on Romantic New Mankind”.
“These books provide a permanent artistic record of what we do and serve to promote intellectual curiosity for the arts,” added Faustino.
Additional background on Professor Allen:
Professor Allen worked as a commercial photographer while pursuing his artistic vision at Hunter College and earning his Master’s degree in Fine Arts. It was at Hunter College that he met and studied with the pioneering African-American photographer, Roy DeCarava.
Professor Allen was featured in The New York Times for his book Double Up, a collection of his photographs that documents the world of the African-American boxers at Gleason’s famous gym during the late 1970s.
The highlights of his career at Queensborough include addressing colleagues and guests at the 2013 Spring Presidential Lecture Series, where he shared his extensive portfolio of a quarter century of artistic endeavors. Subsequent to that event, CUNY-TV taped an episode featuring Professor Allen at Gleason’s famous gym for the segment, Study with the Best, which ran in May of 2013.
The recipient of numerous grants and awards, Professor Allen’s work has been exhibited in museums and private collections throughout the world, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In addition to Double Up, Professor Allen is the author of Hats and HatNots, Black Bodies and In Your Own Sweet Way, a collection of intimate photographs taken while travelling in Africa.