Lewis Watts

Five Things I've Learned About

Documenting Migration and Culture

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Join photographer, archivist, curator, and teacher Lewis Watts, and discover the Five Things He’s Learned about photography’s power to trace, preserve, and celebrate the people and communities of the African diaspora.

Online Event Details

  • 90 minutes


  • Single-Class Ticket - $40.00

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about photography’s power to trace, preserve, and celebrate the people and communities of the African diaspora.

My name is Lewis Watts and I hope you’ll join me for my upcoming live class, Five Things I’ve Learned About Documenting Migration and Culture. I’m a photographer, an archivist, a curator, and a teacher. For more than 30 years, I’ve been tracing, preserving, and celebrating the people and communities of the African diaspora, particularly in America.

I have photographed in West Oakland, South Central Los Angeles, Harlem, New Orleans, and Atlanta, and most recently in Charleston. There, I’m working on a project in conjunction with the African American Museum now under construction. I just returned from my second trip, where I was exposed to the Gullah Culture and to the history of African American Communities in existence since the civil war. My work includes portraits of artists, activist, authors, and musicians along with photographs of historical and archival objects. I’m interested in historical and contemporary representations of people in this migration. I’ve made a point to document those who have thrived and those working to make sure that their cultural history is not erased.

I have also had a chance to document migration between parts of Africa and the Middle East to Europe, which like the southern migration is caused by war, oppression, and the desire for economic opportunity. I have photographed in France, Greece, Germany and England and I’ve been looking at the “Black Presence” and its impact on those cultures and communities.

For me, the consequences of slavery and the results of the Great Migration that followed World War II begin with my own family. My father found himself in Seattle when he was discharged from the Army. He found a job and sent for my mother, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Though I grew up in Seattle, much of my childhood involved trips to the south to visit grandparents and other relatives. I am sure that these trips – and with them my many returns to the Northwest – fueled my photographic and intellectual life. I have always been interested in the things that people bring with them as they migrate in search of a better life.

It’s what I’ve learned from a life documenting from my work that I wish to share with you.

In our 90-minute class, I will show work from these projects and trace the ways my own roots are connected to a common past. We’ll talk about the conditions under which I took some of the most important photos in my life. More important to me: I’ll also share what I’ve learned during a life caring about the results of people’s travels and exploring the things they’ve carried with them.

I hope to see you soon,

– Lewis Watts

Lewis Watts

Lewis Watts is a photographer, archivist/curator and Professor Emeritus of Art at UC Santa Cruz. He is the author of “Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era” (2017) and “New Orleans Suite: Music and Culture in Transition” (2013).

His work has been exhibited at and is in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; the UC Berkeley Art Museum, CA; the Citè de La Musique, Paris, France; the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA; the Oakland Museum of California; and the Amistad Center for Art and Culture, Hartford, CT, among others.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Your ticket entitles you to ongoing access to this class — even after the live session concludes.

If you purchase a ticket in time to join the class live, you can view the archive as soon as it’s posted, as often as you like. Look for an email with information about how to access the course archive within 48 hours of the end of the live class. Once you get it, you’ll have all the information you need to access it as you like across any and all devices you own.

If you purchase a ticket after the live class takes place, you can view the archive immediately, and you can return to it as frequently as you like

If you’d like a refund, we can happily credit the card you used to register for the session. Please send a note to pre.event@extendedsession.com , and we’ll confirm receipt as soon as we see it (We don’t need your credit card info – just your email address and date of purchase.)

There are two things to know:

  • Unfortunately, we can only accept cancellations and refunds up to 48 hours before a scheduled session.
  • There is sure to be a lapse in time between the time we refund your order and the time a corresponding credit appears on your credit card statement. So that you’re not left waiting and wondering, we’ll contact you as soon as we’ve processed the credit in our system.

For reasons we hope you’ll understand – the biggest of them the fact that we make a point of compensating the folks who host Five Things I’ve Learned classes as quickly as we can – we can’t accommodate refunds for tickets purchased within 48 of the start of a scheduled live event. We can also accommodate refund requests for the purchase of an archived session only within 24 hours from the time of purchase.

If you’ve purchased a ticket for this online class and you find that for some reason you can’t make the live session, you have two choices:

  • The first: View the session archive. You can view the session archive as soon as it’s posted – or any time, as often as you like. We’ll make an archive of this class available within 48 hours of the live session, and we’ll send every ticket holder details on how they can view it. As a ticket holder, you’re able to view this full session archive any time– as often as you like.
  • The second: Request a refund. Just send a note to pre.event@extendedsession.com, and we’ll help sort things out. Please keep in mind that we can only accommodate refund requests made more than 48 hours from the start of a live session.

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We’ll send another reminder on the day of the class itself, and we’ll be available online just before the class begins to make sure you have no problems joining when the time is right.

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