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Woodmere Art Museum has ‘A Million Faces’

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter

He sought to chronicle the vitality of Philadelphia African-Americans between the ’30s and the ’60s through “nearly a million faces.”
Philadelphia photojournalist John W. Mosley is the star of the retrospective exhibition “A Million Faces: The Photography of John W. Mosley” at the Woodmere Art Museum. It showcases more than 100 of Mosley’s more than 300,000 photographs, which are preserved in the Temple University Libraries’ Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.
Among those million faces are glamorous women, politicians, churchgoers, agrarian workers and Atlantic City beachcombers, as well as appearances by Martin Luther King Jr., Cecil B. Moore, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Lena Horne, Roy Campanella, Marian Anderson, Jackie Robinson, Dox Thrash, Duke Ellington, Wilt Chamberlain and Ella Fitzgerald.
Was he a newspaper photographer?
Mosley, who passed away in 1969, was published in the Philadelphia Tribune, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, the Pittsburgh Courier and other black-owned newspapers along the East Coast. As a longtime staff photographer for the Pyramid Club, he preserved for all time a proactive, positive, even jovial, visual record of the civic, social and cultural heartbeat of Philly’s black community.
Woodmere’s director and CEO, William Valerio, said in a press release, “Mosley is an extraordinary artist and storyteller. Taken together, Mosley’s photography offers a distinct Philadelphia story, representing Philadelphia’s black community with complexity and joy, all in the difficult context of a segregated society.”
Was he from Philadelphia?
Mosley moved to Philadelphia in 1934, during a wave of migration of African-Americans from the Jim Crow south to the north.
What kind of cameras was he using?
The self-taught Mosley captured all these moments with an unwieldy, large-format, accordion-style Graflex camera.
When can I go see “A Million Faces?”
It’s open right now, and you can see it through Jan. 16. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays and Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Admission is $10, free on Sundays.

Philadelphia transit workers went on strike when African-Americans were first hired. John W. Mosley photographed this counter strike that was held in response.

Philadelphia transit workers went on strike when African-Americans were first hired. John W. Mosley photographed this counter strike that was held in response. A photo by John W. Mosley

If Mosley’s photographs remind you of something from your own life, seek out the “Share Your Stories” prompt at www.woodmereartmuseum.org. Every Monday for the duration of the exhibition, selected photos will be highlighted on Woodmere’s social media channels inviting visitors to share their thoughts. Many of these additional stories will be collected in a catalogue that is intended to document both the exhibition and the community response to it.
The Woodmere Art Museum is in Chestnut Hill?
At 9201 Germantown Ave. You can call (215) 247-0476 for more information.
Besides free admission on Sundays, are there any special days I should try to go?
“Friday Night Jazz Celebrating Philadelphia Jazz” happens 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays through Dec. 16. From 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 14, there’s a “Classical Saturday” tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. with soprano Valerie Gay. At 2 p.m. Jan. 15, there’s a talk with Charles L. Blockson, educator, author and founder of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University Libraries; Leslie Willis-Lowry, an archivist with the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection; and Dr. Deborah Willis, professor and chairwoman of New York University’s department of photography and imaging. From noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 16, it’s a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Festival for families.

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