Lewis Watts is a photographer, archivist/curator and Professor Emeritus of Art at UC Santa Cruz. His research and artwork centers primarily around the “cultural landscape”,** focusing primarily on communities of African descent in the San Francisco Bay Area, New Orleans, Harlem and most recently Cuba, Europe and South Africa. His research examines the imprint of migration and the things that people bring with them from one place to the other and how that is expressed in the places where they are as well as in the places they come from. He uses those conditions as the field to make successful photographs.
He is co-author of the book, Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era, published by Chronicle and Heyday Books (2020) which features oral histories and his restorations of salvaged and collected photographs that portray musicians, patrons and the cultural life of the vibrant jazz scene in the Fillmore District during the 1940s, 50s & 60s. His most recent book, “New Orleans Suite”, co-written with Prof. Eric Porter, was published by UC Press in 2013. It covers the cultural and environmental life in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. He is also the author of “Portraits” published by Edition One Books in 2019. That work pictures African American creatives and others who are comfortable in their own skin. He is currently working on a documentary project in Charleston, South Carolina for a book to be published in conjunction with the African American Museum designed by Walter Hood and currently under construction.
He has lectured on these and other projects at New York University, Harvard University, The University of Baja California, The Oakland Museum, Ruhr University, Bochum Germany, Renne University, Brittany France, Louisiana State University, Stanford University, USC, The City College of New York and San Jose State University among other places.
His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is held in many private and public collections including The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian, amongst many others. He is affiliated with the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco.