Great Bermudian photographer’s work in focus at National Gallery
Richard Saunders was born into segregation in Bermuda. He was frustrated after being twice turned down to work as a darkroom assistant by the forerunner of the Department of Tourism because of his race and moved to New York.
There he became one of the world’s best known photographers, especially of the newly independent nations of Africa. His work was featured in The New York Times, Life, Ebony, Time and National Geographic.
Now his photographs are being featured at the Bermuda National Gallery, to which his widow, Emily Saunders, donated 30 of his most famous pictures. Mr Saunders died in 1987, only days before he was due to receive the Bermuda Arts Council’s first ever lifetime achievement award.
“What matters to me are people and their feelings,” Mr Saunders said, aware of the power of his images to bring about social change. “Above all it is the dignity of man, of whatever colour, creed or persuasion, that must come through in my photographs.
“One of my aims is to tie the human factor, the human drama, in with the technical aspects of [film] development and make it exciting and interesting for the viewer as well.”
In New York, Mr Saunders studied at the Modern Photography School at Brooklyn College and The New School for Social Research, where he met Gordon Parks, who is widely recognised as one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.
He photographed some of the most famous people in the world, including Malcolm X and singer James Brown, but also captured the essence of people in ordinary life.
Mr Parks helped Mr Saunders to find projects and later work with many top US publications. Mr Saunders became an international editor for a US government magazine, which enabled him to travel widely. An exhibition of his photographs of Africa travelled around that continent for two years.
The exhibition was curated by Eve Godet Thomas and runs until February, 2023.