The Fourth Ward Photo Parlour: A We, Women Project


Hello everyone! I’m Willow Naomi Curry, the Houston-based writer and curator behind the writing workshop series "Letters & Lives"  presented by DiverseWorks through the Project Freeway Fellowship. I'm starting this fundraiser for “The Fourth Ward Photo Parlour,” a photography exhibition concept I created in 2019 after a over a year of research on Houston's historic Freedmen's Town/Fourth Ward, one of only a handful of freed slave settlements across the United States that has preserved architecture and is still a living community.

In collaboration with Tiffany Smith, an incredibly accomplished NYC-based photographer  and visiting professor at the Pratt Institute; the Freedmen's Town Association, chaired by preservation and community activists Gladys House and Charonda Johnson; and the people of Fourth Ward, we're putting together the Parlour as a recreation of the Teal Portrait Studio, established in the Fourth Ward in 1919 by Elnora and Arthur Teal and operating for over 40 years. Candid pictures taken by community members will be displayed alongside regal studio portraits of those community members taken by Tiffany as well as archival photos, eschewing the respectability politics inherent in the many ways Black folks as subjects are "humanized" to wider audiences, and emphasizing the continuity between the Black past and present. It will be staged in June 2019 and exhibited in August 2019.


This exhibition has grant funding from the Houston Arts Alliance through the Houston Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs and the We, Women grant through United Photo Industries, which we are incredibly thankful for. However, independent exhibitions (those not commissioned from within a museum or gallery) are expensive to produce and require both grant and community support. Here's what your money will go toward:

-The rental fee for the spaces used in the production and exhibition of the project.
-Various exhibition costs: the loan and shipping of archival photos, exhibition design and installer's fees, the purchase of materials for sets and props, and photo printing.
-The production of an exhibition catalog.
-Making packages of multi-size prints from the studio portrait sessions (essentially what you'd get at a studio like JCPenney!) available to the residents who participate for a free or reduced cost.
-Compensating Gladys House and Charonda Johnson of The Freedmen's Town Association for their time and effort, and covering any artist fees for Tiffany and I that are not covered by grants (which, thankfully, has been most!). 


We're kicking off this fundraiser during Black History Month because this exhibition is incredibly historically significant. It absolutely refuses to take an outsider's photographic perspective; the only images of Black people of the Fourth Ward community in the show will be by and for them. That's the opposite of the usual model of a professional photographer acting as a go-between for us and the rest of the world. Additionally, "The Fourth Ward Photo Parlour" was one of 20 photography projects chosen from across the country for the inaugural We, Women grant and traveling exhibition, which was featured in The Guardian. Only ONE project was chosen per state/territory/district, so The Fourth Ward Photo Parlour, an exhibition curated and photographed by two black women artists that focuses on a historic Black neighborhood/settlement, is representing all of Texas.

It's a BIG deal. But we need your help to make it happen. We challenge you to help us raise the full amount by the end of February!


As a thank you for your support, you'll receive these benefits after the August exhibition based on your giving level (besides postcards, which will be available to send out by March). We'll also acknowledge all supporters of $10+ in the written/printed exhibition materials.

PEER LEVEL (Open-edition Prints + Digital Writings)

$10-$20: A handwritten thank-you note from Tiffany or myself on a high-quality postcard featuring my photograph of Fourth Ward's skyline with the Downtown Houston skyline behind it, the featured image here.

$21-$40: The postcard plus your choice of an open-edition print from the show on archival paper; postcard size for $21-30 and 8x10 for $31-$40. Signature options available upon request.

$50: The postcard and a matted + framed 8x10 print from the show.

$75: Postcard, matted + framed 8x10 print, and your choice of a smaller unframed print.

$100: Postcard, matted + framed 8x10 or unframed 11 x 14 print, your choice of two smaller unframed prints, and the digital version of the writings mentioned below.

REPARATIONS LEVEL (Limited Edition Prints, Print or Digital Writings and Presentations, Free Exhibition Catalog)

$300: Postcard, a limited edition matted + framed 8x10 or 11 x 14 print, your choice of an open-edition print, and a digital or print (perfect bound) collection of my published essays on the Black Houston experience and Black Houston history & community relating to art, including an essay to be published in ZORA Magazine on early 20th century Black Houstonian women artists such as Elnora Teal and Naomi Polk, another Fourth Ward Native.

$500: Postcard; a matted + framed 20 x 24 print from the show, your choice of smaller unframed open-edition prints + one smaller limited edition print; the print or digital essay collection; and the ability to book me for a lecture/presentation on one of three subjects: Fourth Ward/Freedmen's Town in the context of photography, Black Houston history in the context of the arts, or overlooked/under-studied historical Black Houstonian women artists (please let us know if you would like for this presentation to happen during a timely month, such as Black History Month, Women's History Month, June for Juneteenth, or a special convening).

$1,000: Postcard, a matted + framed 20 x 24 print from the show + one smaller matted + framed limited edition print, your choice of smaller unframed open-edition prints, a signed & perfect bound print essay collection, and the ability to book me for up to two topics for speaking engagements *or* one joint presentation featuring Tiffany and I in Houston or New York City.

Above $1,000: First off, you rock; secondly, you'll have all of the above available to you plus the ability to book a screening of our video documentation of the Parlour production, setup and studio sessions. Special recognition in the catalog and exhibition materials is also available upon request, depending on gift level. 

LAST BUT MOST IMPORTANT: This exhibition, the publicity it has received, and its upcoming cross-country tour would not be possible without the work of the incredible group of women photographers and photojounalists behind the We, Women project. They have a Kickstarter campaign  going right now to raise $35k for the traveling exhibition, and have had tremendous momentum, raising $20k just since the Kickstarter launch on January 21st. But they still have $15k left to raise in the next 19 days.  If you are able, please make an additional contribution towards them--we can't do this without their success! 

All my very best,



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Willow Curry 
Houston, TX
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