Scurlock Photographers of Washington DC were National Treasures -Interview with Annie King Phillips

By Lonnie Dawkins

Annie King Phillips reflects on her memories of classmate George Scurlock, son of photographer Addison Scurlock.  The Scurlocks captured Washington, DC in pictures during the early part of the 20th Century.

Ms. Phillips, a renown collage artist talked about photography and the Scurlock family.  Addison Scurlock and J.P. Ball are my favorite photographers and it was wonderful to hear first hand about Surlock’s work from someone who lived during that period.  Ms. Phillips is now 93 years old and lives in Illinois.

Collage Artist Annie King Phillips

Lonnie Dawkins photography website

Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall – Remembering those who served.

It was a beautiful but cold fall day when ceremonies and remembrances took place honoring those who gave their lives in the Vietnam War.  On Veterans Day 2011 in Washington, DC. dignitaries were on hand as well as veterans and family and friends of the fallen.   The most moving part is seeing the tributes and flowers being left at the wall and seeing people reacting to the names.  Many bring paper to trace the names.

One name that stands out for me is a childhood friend Curvin Clayton of Durham, NC who died at age 20 in Vietnam.  He was known as Cup and I often think about what life for him would be had he lived a full life.  Each person present has a story to remember about someone on that wall.

The brilliant sun caused beautiful reflections on the wall as though it was blending people present and the fallen together once again.

Tremendous gratitude to those who served and gave the supreme sacrifice.

Colors being presented at Vietnam Veteran Memorial

Colors being presented at Vietnam Veteran Memorial

Visitors at Veterans Memorial wall tracing names

Visitors at Veterans Memorial wall tracing names

Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall with names of deceased heros

Some of the names on the Wall including Curvin Clayton

people gathering at the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall

Brilliant sun allowed beautiful reflections on the Wall.

Annie King Phillips discusses Scurlock Contribution to Washington, DC photography. Images of Black Washington

Annie King Phillips discusses George Scurlock's photography

Annie King Phillips discusses George Scurlock’s photography

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Annie Phillips King a Washingtion, DC native speaks highly of the Scurlock Family of photographers and their contribution to Washington. According to her if your picture was in their window you had arrived or at least knew where the Pearly Gates were.

The Scurlock Studio Exhibit at Smithsonian a Must-See

Picture of my father-in-law Alexander Davis (age 23 in 1945) taken by the Scurlock Studio.

Picture of my father-in-law Alexander Davis (age 23 in 1945) taken by the Scurlock Studio.

Information about The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise Exhibit

Today I finally had the opportunity to see the The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise  Exhibit.  It’s at the National Museum of African History and Culture , Smithsonian Institution.  The museum is located at 14th and Constitution in NW DC.  It is well worth the visit.

Have you heard of Addison Scurlock and his sons George and Robert? Very few people have and that is a shame!  In my opionion the Scurlocks are among the greatest American photographers PERIOD!! The Scurlocks photographed EVERYONE during their time which spanned the early 1900s to around 1994.   Addison Scurlock would put pictures of the famous and not so famous on display in the windows of his studio. Having your picture taken by Scurlock was status! In the exhibit you will see pictures of almost every famous African American of the time but also will equally enjoy the images of everyday people. The thing about Scurlock and his sons were that they truly took wonderful images that stand out. For example, I have seen lots of pictures of Mary Mcleod Bethune but the picture that I saw taken by Mr. Scurlock is truly beautiful and well done. It’s a good picture of her!!!

Addison Scurlock was also the official photographer for Howard University and that great institution’s history is well recorded thanks to him.

If you want to see beautiful black and white images of Washington society, businesses, families, celebrities, and much more please visit this exhibit before it closes and take your children.

In addition to getting to enjoy the photography I also learned more about Washington history.  Previously, I had never heard of Suburban Gardens which was an amusement park once located in the Deanwood section of DC or what a “Negro spotter” was. (You’ll have to go to the exhibit to find out). Also I had never heard of the Bison Bus Line.

Also did you know that if your family has been in the DC area for some time it is very likely that you own some photography by the Scurlocks?  You need to get that photography out and enjoy it.   The Scurlocks didn’t just photograph the rich and famous.  Everyday people had the opportunity to sit for portraits and the same dignity and beauty was brought to each sitter’s image. Above is a picture of my father-in-law Alexander Davis taken by the Scurlock Studio. It was taken in 1945 when he was 23 years old.

Hey, you must go and see this exhibit!  Go see the pictures and go learn some more history. Even while I was writing this note I just learned that the Addison Studio building is the same one that now houses Nellie’s Sports Bar at 9th and U Streets. Hmmm.

Do you have some Scurlock experiences? Maybe you or someone in your family was photographed by the Scurlocks or you remember going by the studio on 9th and U.  Please leave a comment and share it.