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Donald Camp

Artist and photography professor Donald Eugene Camp was born on July 28, 1940 in Meadville, Pennsylvania to Ira and Martha Camp. He graduated from Camden High School in 1958 and went on to serve in the United States Air Force from 1960 to 1972.

From 1972 to 1980, Camp worked as a photographer for the Philadelphia Evening and Sunday Bulletin. He then returned to school and received his B.F.A. degree in 1987 and his M.F.A. degree in 1989, both from Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He subsequently taught for two years as an assistant professor at the Tyler School of Art. Then, after receiving a number of artist fellowships in the 1990s, Camp was hired as an artist-in-residence and assistant professor of photography at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania in 2000. Camp retired in 2012 as professor emeritus.

Camp started exhibiting his art in group shows in 1982 and in solo exhibitions in 1989. His ongoing photographic series, Dust Shaped Hearts, began in 1990, and sought to counter stereotypes of African American men. The series has grown to include men and women of all races, acknowledging that the struggle against ignorance and intolerance is universal. Camp’s artwork has been exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Institute for Contemporary Art, the Delaware Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Noyes Museum; and is included in a number of important public and private collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His work has also been featured at Gallery 339 in Philadelphia for a number of years.

Camp has been honored for his work with a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and multiple Pew Fellowships. He was a Pennsylvania Visual Artist Fellow four times, and was awarded a Honickman Foundation Grant in 2008. Camp was a founding member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, and sat on the board of trustees of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania from 2002 to 2005. He was also the subject of an American Artist Oral History at the Smithsonian Institute, and has served on the advisory board of the Creative Artist Network (now The Center for Emerging Visual Artists). He is a member of the Bahá'í Faith and lives and works in Philadelphia.

Donald Camp was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 13, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.144

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/11/2014 |and| 6/13/2014

Last Name

Camp

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Eugene

Occupation
Schools

Eckles Elementary School

Farrell Jr. High School

Farrell Area High School

Camden High School

Temple University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Donald

Birth City, State, Country

Meadville

HM ID

CAM10

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana

Favorite Quote

I Created Thee, Yet Thou Hast Abased Thyself. Rise Then Unto That For Which Thou Wast Created.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

7/28/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Gumbo

Short Description

Photographer Donald Camp (1940 - ) was an artist-in-residence and assistant professor of photography at Ursinus College from 2000 to 2010. He has been awarded numerous fellowships for his photographic artwork, and was a founding member of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.

Employment

Ursinus College

Temple University's Tyler School of Art

Philadelphia Evening & Sunday Bulletin

United States Air Force

Freelance Photographer

Favorite Color

Blue

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Donald Camp's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Donald Camp lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his maternal grandmother's murder

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Donald Camp talks about his mother's musical talent

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Donald Camp recalls his mother's illness

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Donald Camp describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Donald Camp remembers his paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Donald Camp describes the origin of his surname

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Donald Camp talks about his father's occupation

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Donald Camp describes Farrell, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Donald Camp recalls how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Donald Camp talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes his brother James Camp

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Donald Camp talks about the career of his brother, William Camp

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Donald Camp remembers the racial demographics of Farrell, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Donald Camp describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Donald Camp talks about living in a segregated society

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Donald Camp remembers attending L.R. Eckles Elementary School in Farrell, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Donald Camp recalls the responses to the murder of Emmett Till

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers moving to Camden, New Jersey after his mother's death

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Donald Camp talks about becoming a magician

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his early experiences of religion

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Donald Camp recalls his graduation from Camden High School in Camden, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes his involvement with magician organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Donald Camp recalls his decision to join the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Donald Camp remembers being stationed in Marin County, California

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Donald Camp recalls learning about composition at Musee du Louvre in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Donald Camp recalls seeing African American entertainers in Paris, France, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Donald Camp recalls seeing African American entertainers in Paris, France, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Donald Camp talks his early interest in photography

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Donald Camp recalls his first camera

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Donald Camp describes the photographers that inspired him, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes the qualities of a good photographer

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Donald Camp describes the photographers that inspired him, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Donald Camp recalls developing his skills as a photographer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Donald Camp remembers joining the Baha'i faith

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Donald Camp recalls how he was introduced to the Baha'i faith

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Donald Camp remembers his deployment to Vietnam

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers being stationed at Cam Ranh Bay Base in Vietnam

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Donald Camp remembers the U.S. military's struggle to integrate

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Donald Camp recalls leaving the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Donald Camp recalls meeting Philip Jones Griffiths

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Donald Camp remembers being hired at the Philadelphia Bulletin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Donald Camp recalls the diversification of the Philadelphia Bulletin's staff

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes the lack of diversity in the newspaper industry

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Donald Camp talks about his experiences as a newspaper photographer

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Donald Camp remembers covering the MOVE crisis in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Donald Camp describes his reasons for leaving the Philadelphia Bulletin

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Slating of Donald Camp's interview, session 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Donald Camp remembers resigning from the Philadelphia Bulletin

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Donald Camp recalls searching for jobs after leaving the Philadelphia Bulletin

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Donald Camp remembers his decision to pursue fine arts photography at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Donald Camp talks about influential instructors at Temple University, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Donald Camp recalls his apprehension about attending college at an older age

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Donald Camp talks about influential instructors at Temple University, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Donald Camp describes Roy DeCarava and Robert Frank

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Donald Camp describes his master's thesis project

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Donald Camp remembers being offered a graduate fellowship at Temple University

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers directing Temple University's Future Faculty Fellowship Program

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Donald Camp describes his inspiration for the 'Dust Shaped Hearts' exhibition, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his inspiration for the 'Dust Shaped Hearts' exhibition, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Donald Camp remembers the creation of the 'Dust Shaped Hearts' photographs

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes the reviews for his 'Dust Shaped Hearts' exhibit

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Donald Camp recalls his inspiration for naming the 'Dust Shaped Hearts' exhibit

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes how he chose his photography subjects, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Donald Camp describes how he chose his photography subjects, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Donald Camp talks about his perception of his work

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Donald Camp talks about his fellowships

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Donald Camp recalls purchasing his home

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Donald Camp talks about his approach to photography

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Donald Camp remembers joining the faculty at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Donald Camp recalls his approach to teaching photography

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes a photography exhibit and magic show at Austin College in Sherman, Texas

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Donald Camp describes his favorite magician

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Donald Camp talks about African American magicians

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Donald Camp talks about his retirement from Ursinus College

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Donald Camp describes his artistic philosophy

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Donald Camp reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Donald Camp reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Donald Camp talks about his retirement and his plans for the future

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Donald Camp talks about his involvement with the Society for Photographic Education

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Donald Camp describes his family

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Donald Camp recalls his role in the founding of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Donald Camp describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$2

DATape

3$6

DAStory

8$9

DATitle
Donald Camp recalls learning about composition at Musee du Louvre in Paris, France
Donald Camp describes his master's thesis project
Transcript
Even when I went to Alaska, Alaska was interesting, for two years but it was interesting because I, because of being able to experience, you know, the aurora borealis and, you know, the midnight sun, and all of that, I mean, that was a fascinating thing. And then to France from there and being about what was it ninety kilometers, about eighty miles--seventy miles north of Paris [France]. And I could go to Paris almost every weekend, and I did. Because, you know, I could go and, and, and I wanted to go to the Louvre [Musee du Louvre, Paris, France] and I could, I can get in the Louvre free because they would give--the [U.S.] military would get passes and nobody wanted those passes everybody else wanted to go to Pigalle [Quartier Pigalle, Paris, France]. I would get the passes and go to the museums, and just walk Paris and see the art. And I must have, I must've walked, you know, I must've studied probably three--a good three months solid in the Louvre walking it and studying.$$Now, you--I have a note here that you were, you were impressed by impressionistic artists?$$ I was. Yeah, I, yeah--$$Or, well, what art impressed you the most in, in the Louvre? Or did any of the art inspire the work you do today?$$ None of it.$$None of it, okay.$$ No. It was classic, and I went there to study cl- I, I, I, I cut out a little--I took a 35mm transparency and I popped the slide out and I used that, and I would go into the--and I would compose and recompose paintings and sculptures.$$So, just the little frame that goes around the slide and you would hold it in front of the--$$ Yeah, yeah. And, if I hold it close, it was like a wide angle lens and, if I hold it a distance like a telephoto but just concentrating on that little section. And I could change it horizontal, vertical, or do whatever I wanted to with it. And that's how I studied the compositions. So, yeah, that's, that's why I would, you know, that's what I would do in Paris. And, and plus, you know, I read, at that time, I read tech books almost like novels. Formulas to me were the most fascinating thing because I could find out--I could read a formula book and make a comparison in my head as to what it would do a color on a piece of paper. So, yeah, it--that was a fascinating time for me.$In grad school [at Stella Elkins Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] you had a--I guess a thesis project or something?$$ Yes.$$And what was it?$$ Yeah, that was--you know, I still like the work--it--but it was--again, this was based on a part of a Baha'i prayer. And that prayer is--a part of that prayer is: "Thus their superstitions have become barriers between themselves and their own hearts." And I love that because what I tried to do physically was to set up a barrier and so I used comp- I, I, used appropriated images from newspapers, and they really are--they were based on superstition. My choices of the images were based on what I think are superstitions and that is inferiority or superiority of race, inferiority, or superiority of gender, you know. And so, I took these images and I, I, I copied them and then I printed them on mirror. And so, when you saw the photograph, you could see, you know, you are here, then you had this image of something that depicted racism and then you saw yourself behind it. One of the pieces was something that we assumed that I'm supposed to understand in one way, it was a diptych. And on the left is an image of something someone called 'Dr. Claude Cunningham Tips His Hat' [ph.]. He was a delegate at the, at 1948 convention in Atlantic City [New Jersey]. I mean, he had a hat on and he's tipping it and he has cane and cigar sticking out of his mouth, and he's from Texas. The way the image was made I was supposed to assume that he was this racist. On the right was: 'Buxom Virginia Jack Swaffs Her Thirst,' and it's a buxom woman, you know, and she's got a bottle of soda. Well, on the reverse of those images, the reverse on the back of that page, it was what the women's caucus was doing at the convention and they were talking about, "What are going to do with this terrible new weapon that we have?" And they were talking about the atomic bomb. "What are we going to do about women's rights? What are we going to do about racism?" That was the discussion that the women were talking about at the convention. And so, I took those images and I flipped them and I photographed both sides, and so it's, it's Dr. Claude Cunningham [ph.] and Miss Virginia Jack [ph.] and then the text so you can see what was going on between a heart and self. So, that was--those were just kind of a few of the images that I did for the thesis, but that was the foundation of it. The beautiful thing about that also is, if the pieces are lit right, not only are you seeing self, barrier and self, but if it's lit right, it projects onto the floor so that you're standing in the image as well so it just envelopes you in that sense. So, that was, you know, my thesis work.$$Okay, this is 1989, right?$$ Yes.$$Who is your advisor?$$ That would have been Martha Madigan. Will Larson [William G. Larson] left just shortly after I started the grad program and then Martha Madigan took it over, so she would have been the advisor.