The New Orleans Museum of Art Receives Southeastern Museums Conference Awards for Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers

The groundbreaking exhibition earned three awards in the group’s competitive publication and technology competitions.

NEW ORLEANS – Last week, the Southeastern Museums Conference announced the winners of its annual awards competitions, which highlight excellence by member museums across the American South. The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) received three awards in the publication and technology competitions for the groundbreaking exhibition Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers.

On view at NOMA September 16, 2022–January 8, 2023, the exhibition brought together over 250 photographs from the 19th century to the present illustrating the artistic virtuosity, social significance, and political impact of African American photographers working in commercial portrait studios.

Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers presented a broader and more inclusive history of photography that highlighted Black subjects on both sides of the camera,” said Susan M. Taylor, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director of NOMA. “Congratulations are due to exhibition curator Brian Piper and our entire museum staff for the important legacy of this exhibition and these award-winning projects.”

In the publication competition, NOMA was awarded a silver award in the book and catalogue category for Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers.

The exhibition’s catalogue was published in May 2023 by NOMA and is distributed by Yale University Press. The volume includes an essay by Brian Piper, NOMA’s Freeman Family Curator of Photographs, Prints, and Drawings, as well as contributions from Russell Lord, John Edwin Mason, and Carla Williams. Designed by Morcos Key and edited by Jennifer Rittner, the book features more than 100 extraordinary vintage photographs, some reproduced for the first time. 

“The Called to the Camera catalogue is the result of the extraordinary efforts by a team of individuals, and includes treasures not only from NOMA’s collection, but also from archives and museums around the country,” said Piper.

The book is available for purchase in the NOMA Museum Shop.

The 2023 SEMC Publication Design Competition received a record-breaking number of applications from a wide variety of museums across the Southeast. The competition encourages communication, effective design, creativity and pride in work, and recognition of institutional image and identity. Recipients of the awards were judged by an appointed jury of museum professionals across the region who specialize in graphic design.

In the technology competition, NOMA was awarded a gold award in the virtual media category and a bronze award in the media production category for video content produced to extend the exhibition’s reach through social media and the museum website

The museum’s marketing and communications team collaborated with videographer Drew Stubbs to produce a series of short-form videos featuring NOMA staff across departments. The social media campaign highlighted both academic and personal perspectives on the objects on view, underscoring the ways Black studio photographers produced beautiful portraits for their clients, while also making a variety of other work in keeping with important movements like pictorialism, modernism, and abstraction. The videos are collected together in a YouTube playlist.

“The videos that NOMA’s team produced showcased the importance of the photographers in the exhibition and foregrounded voices from a number of museum staff and community members,” Piper added.

As technology continues to gain importance throughout the museum field, expectations and standards were exceptionally high for this year’s applicants. Winning entries were expected to demonstrate innovation, effective design, accessibility, creativity, and recognition of institutional identity. Recipients of the awards were judged by an appointed jury of museum professionals across the region who specialize in the fields of digital media and technology.

Award winners from both competitions will be celebrated at the 2023 Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony on November 15, 2023, in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as in the Fall 2023 Edition of INSIDE SEMC, a digital publication of the Southeastern Museums Conference. This designation recognizes the New Orleans Museum of Arts’s contributions to professional standards in Southeastern museums.


About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and its Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden are home to innovative exhibitions, installations, educational programs, and research. Exploring human creativity across time, cultures, and disciplines, the global scope of the museum’s initiatives open a vibrant dialogue with the history and culture of New Orleans. The museum stewards a collection of nearly 50,000 works, with exceptional holdings in African art, photography, decorative arts, and Japanese art, as well as strengths in American and French art, and an expanding collection highlighting contemporary artists. The museum’s exhibitions and dynamic learning and engagement offerings serve as a forum for visitors to engage with diverse perspectives, share cultural experiences, and foster a life of learning at all ages. Recent exhibitions include Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club, Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers, The Orléans Collection (an exhibition of forty European masterpieces from the collection of the city’s namesake, Philippe II, Duc d’Orléans), East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth Century America Landscape Photography, Changing Course: Reflections on New Orleans Histories (seven contemporary art projects focusing on reimagining stories from the city’s past), and Ancestors of Congo Square: African Art in the New Orleans Museum of Art.  

NOMA’s 12-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden expands visitors’ experiences of the museum with one of the most notable sculpture gardens in the country. The Besthoff Sculpture Garden, free and open to the public seven days a week, has nearly 100 sculptures and outdoor works of art situated in a unique landscape featuring Spanish moss-laden live oaks and a sinuous lagoon surrounded by an expansive ecosystem of native plants. The works in the garden range from the 19th to the 21st centuries, with pieces by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Louise Bourgeois, Ida Kohlmeyer, Claes Oldenburg, Sean Scully, Maya Lin, Do Ho Suh, Ugo Rondinone, Wangechi Mutu, Hank Willis Thomas, and many others. The Besthoff Sculpture Garden features contemporary design elements—including a sculpture pavilion, an amphitheater, and an architecturally significant canal link bridge connecting the garden’s original 2003 footprint with a 2019 expansion. Its water management practices support the health and resiliency of New Orleans City Park and the surrounding environment. Throughout the year, NOMA hosts outdoor programs in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden including festivals, performances, wellness classes, tours, and more.

About the Southeastern Museums Conference

The Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC), a nonprofit membership organization, is an association of museums, museum staff, independent professionals and corporate partners. SEMC focuses on the Southeastern United States including: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands. SEMC works to provide educational and professional development opportunities, improve the interchange of ideas and information, and encourage respect and collegiality For more information about the Southeastern Museums Conference, visit 


Press Contact
Charlie Tatum, Director of Marketing and Communications
New Orleans Museum of Art