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Spot On: Responses to the Photographs of Al Smith

Local amateur photographer Al Smith captured the vibrancy and intimacy of everyday life in Seattle’s mid-century Central Area. These iconic images, as featured in the Museum of History & Industry’s exhibit Seattle on the Spot: The Photographs of Al Smith, tell important histories of African American life in Seattle.

Through the African American lens, how do you experience life in the Central Area? What stories are you recording? What events are central to your community? Select one of the three images and themes shown here, and offer your own current response to that image. Submissions should represent photographs recorded between 2010-2018.

How To Enter

Winning photographs will be picked through a juried selection process. Winners will have their work printed and exhibited alongside Al Smith’s photographs in the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute Lobby from March 22 through May 31, 2018. In addition, they will receive an exhibit catalogue for Seattle on the Spot: The Photographs of Al Smith and 2 free passes to MOHAI to see the exhibit.

Be prepared with the following information: Photographer name, address, email, phone number, and a 60-word biographical summary of the photographer; the title and date of the submitted image as well as any other information about the location and individuals captured; and the specific Al Smith image and theme to which the photographer is responding. Digital images must be in jpg format with a minimum size of 300 dpi.

All information must be received by February 15, 2018 

Winners will be announced by March 15, 2018

To enter, provide your information and upload your photograph via the link below: 

Submit Your Photo and Information Here

Copyright: Ownership remains with the artist. By submitting, the photographer grants MOHAI permission to print and mount the photograph and to share the image online. We will provide attribution for each selected artist on the walls of the exhibition and in any online posting. Photographers represent that they have documented permissions to display all individuals included in the image.

Al Smith Themes

Please respond to one of the three images and themes shown below. All images are provided courtesy of MOHAI, the Al Smith Collection.

MOHAI, Al Smith Collection

Theme: Central Area Neighborhood

This image shows Robert L. Hills and his brother, Zeb, in front of their Hills Brothers BBQ in the Central District at 608 21st Avenue. They served sweet potato pie, spicy sauce on smoked ribs, and white bread and butter through the 1990s, and were a much-loved destination.

MOHAI, Al Smith Collection

Theme: Central Area Community Events

A Cadillac on Jackson St. displayed the “Royal Esquire” banner during the International Festival parade in 1950. Jessie Grimes, the festival queen that year, waves to the crowd. Each year, Seattle’s Filipino, Black, Chinese, and Japanese community selected a royal court to represent them for the festivals. The Royal Esquire Club is a privately owned social club founded in 1947 in response to Seattle’s segregated social clubs.

Theme: Social Life & Intimacy

Photographs by Al Smith consistently featured images of family events taking place in the Central Area neighborhood. This image taken in the 1950s depicts a young girl surrounded by other children who were either family friends or from the same neighborhood, likely during her first birthday party.

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