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Separate Cinema- The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art by John Duke Kish6

Separate Cinema: A Powerful Reminder

Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art by John Duke Kisch is a monumental work that offers a comprehensive and visually striking journey through the history of Black cinema as seen through poster art. The book, which includes a vast collection of over 38,000 photos and posters, is unparalleled in its scope and depth, covering a century of Black cinematic history from “The Birth of a Nation” (1915) to “12 Years a Slave” (2013).

The structure of Separate Cinema is unique, with 14 chapters, each focusing on different themes and periods in Black cinema history. These chapters, with evocative titles like “Harlem Goes West,” “Jazzin’, Jammin’, and Jivin’,” and “African Afrocity,” capture the essence of the eras they represent. This division allows the reader to navigate through the book thematically, gaining insight into how Black cinema and its portrayal in poster art have evolved.

Kish’s collection is notable for its diversity, featuring posters from various countries, reflecting Black cinema’s global impact and reach. This international scope is crucial in understanding how Black people and their stories have been represented in film across cultures. Including rare and diverse imagery makes “Separate Cinema” a treasure trove for film historians and art collectors.

The book also serves as an important commentary on societal attitudes towards African Americans. Through the posters, readers can trace the evolution of stereotypes and the progress towards more nuanced and respectful representations.

Separate Cinema- The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art by John Duke Kish6
Separate Cinema- The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art by John Duke Kish6

The book also serves as an important commentary on societal attitudes towards African Americans. Through the posters, readers can trace the evolution of stereotypes and the progress towards more nuanced and respectful representations.

The work of pioneering Black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux, who countered mainstream stereotypes with dignified portrayals of African Americans, is prominently featured. Micheaux and others like him used cinema as a platform to challenge prevailing prejudices and offer alternative narratives about Black life.

Separate Cinema is more than a compilation of poster art; it is a vital educational resource. Its detailed captions, providing information such as size, origin, and designer, enhance its value as a reference tool. The book is a must for educational settings such as social studies, film, and theatre classes. It can foster discussions about equality, stereotypes, and the evolution of African Americans in society.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s foreword adds scholarly depth, providing a condensed survey of Black film history that complements the visual content. Furthermore, the extensive text in the individual sub-chapters, authored by Kish and others, offers rich context and background, making the book an invaluable resource for understanding the historical and cultural significance of the posters.

Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art is a seminal film history and artwork. Its comprehensive collection, with insightful commentary and historical context, makes it indispensable for anyone interested in the intersection of art, culture, and history. This book is a visual documentation of a century of Black poster art and a critical tool for exploring racial stereotypes, societal perceptions, and the evolution of African American identity in American cinema.

Separate Cinema- The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art by John Duke Kish6
Separate Cinema- The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art by John Duke Kish6

John Duke Kisch, Author of Separate Cinema

John Duke Kisch, born in 1954, is an accomplished photographer and the creator of the Separate Cinema Archive. He graduated from Bard College in 1976 and became a commercial photographer in New York during the 1970s and 1980s, focusing on fashion, music, film, and television.

In 1980, Kisch created the Separate Cinema Archive, a remarkable collection dedicated to the history of African American film posters. This archive, which later became the foundation for his book “Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art,” is a testament to his passion for cinema and commitment to preserving a vital part of film history.

Kisch’s motivation for compiling Separate Cinema appears to be twofold. Firstly, as a collector and archivist, he recognised these posters’ cultural and historical significance, not just as promotional materials but as art forms and historical documents. They provide insight into how African Americans have been portrayed in cinema and reflect broader societal attitudes and changes over time.

Secondly, his work is driven by a desire to educate and inform. By presenting this extensive collection, Kisch offers a unique perspective on the evolution of African American cinema and its impact on society. His book serves not only as a celebration of Black cinema but also as an educational tool, shedding light on how racial stereotypes and depictions in film have evolved over a century.

Throughout his career, Kisch has demonstrated a deep appreciation for the visual arts and a dedication to chronicling the often-overlooked aspects of film history. His work, especially with the Separate Cinema Archive and the publication of “Separate Cinema,” highlights the importance of preserving and studying film history, particularly in the context of marginalised communities.

John Duke Kisch’s journey from a commercial photographer to the creator of one of the most significant collections of African American film history is a story of passion, dedication, and a deep-seated appreciation for cinema and its cultural impact. His work continues to inspire and educate, offering invaluable insights into the rich history of Black cinema.

Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art by John Duke Kish is available to purchase online.

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