Sam Brown at printing press, 5914 Thompson Street, Philadelphia
Mosley’s photograph of Sam Brown captures the physicality of both the artist’s work and his printing press. The arms of the press span more than half of the picture, emphasizing the monumentality of the press and the strength that Brown, who leans into the press, applied to his creative process. Dapper and calm in a white shirt and tie, the artist works amid a dense array of papers, books, wires, ropes, pieces of discarded wood, and objects.
After moving to Philadelphia in 1917, Brown studied at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts) and earned his master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He was the head of the Tra Club, an informal art association for African Americans in Philadelphia, and a member of the Pyramid Club. He also shared a studio with fellow artist Dox Thrash, another of Mosley’s subjects. Brown’s participation in the Works Progress Administration’s Fine Art Print Workshop in the 1930s launched his lifelong engagement with printmaking, though he would go on to work in many different mediums. He taught art in the city’s public schools for more than thirty years.