Photographer’s work captures the soul of Houston’s Black community

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Sometimes a colorless photo can convey a thousand words to you, but a portrait of a man, woman, or child in a colorless color can convey a million.

Looking at pictures of four black children playing in a concrete playground in an urban exclave, a man with a camera captured their innocent filling.

The man, Texas Southern University’s decorated photographer Erie Hadnar Jr., confirmed that he would capture all instances of their innocence.

Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Hadnar is known as a “national treasure.”

That’s because he captured the raw hardships, sharp pains, and unlimited happiness of the black community in Houston through the camera lens.

Photo taken by Erie Hadnar Jr. (Erie Hadnar Junior)

Observing the famous photographer’s studio in Houston’s Third District is a journey into the past. Forty years of Houston’s historical black community cover every square inch of Hadonal’s space.

Each photo reflects his memory.

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“The community was close and concise. We were dependent on each other, and that was the beauty of my community,” Hudnall said. “I found the wreckage in parts of Houston and wherever I wanted to go.”

Photo taken by Erie Hadnar Jr. (Erie Hadnar Junior)

Hadnar’s father, who grew up in Mississippi, was an amateur photographer who took pictures with the army and his family.

“He lined us up and flicked the camera, whether it was Easter Sunday or when we were all dressed in new school clothes,” Hadnar said.

When his parents were busy, Hadnar went next to his grandmother Bonnie Jean’s house and listened to old stories.

The photographer heard many other stories about his family and his community, including the story of Jesse L. Brown, the first African-American Navy aviator also from Hadnar’s hometown.

“She said to my brother and me,’Let’s continue to get Gran’s album.’ When we opened it, there was a clipping of his newspaper. [Jesse L. Brown] Photographs and what happened to him unfortunately in the Korean War [Brown died a hero at 24 on December 4, 1950]”Hadnar said.

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Since then, Hudnall has begun to understand the importance of documenting his community and how he is and how he lives from an early age.

“It was important to find out why people move, work hard, and become very original in the way they survive,” Hudnall said.

Hadnar was advised to head to TSU because of the reputation of the arts department before boarding the Greyhound and leaving his hometown for Houston, Texas.

Throughout his time at Tennessee State University, Hadnar has been a tiger family member and colleague like his longtime friend Ray Carrington III, and other prominent ones like Dr. Thomas F. Freeman and Dr. John Biggers. I connected with a person from the university.

Dr. Freeman hired Hadnar to take pictures of a model city program that offers the opportunity to photograph different parts of Houston (Trinity Gardens, Sunnyside, Districts 3, 4, and 5).

But Hudnall found something reminiscent of his life in these Houston exclaves. This has influenced photographers to capture the simple yet memorable moments of their daily lives.

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“I chose a very friendly and sometimes lonely path to document the humanity of humanity and the universality of the human spirit,” Hadnar said.

Photo taken by Erie Hadnar Jr. (Erie Hadnar Junior)
Photo taken by Erie Hadnar Jr. (Erie Hadnar Junior)

Hudnall portrays blacks around the world peacefully, celebrating special occasions, thrilling children in the summer, and people wearing the glitz of Sunday.

In this way, the seeds of his labor have blossomed. Each flower exhibited his work and the leaves provided a vision of fruiting.

Some of his glorious photographs have been donated to public and private collections of institutions such as the Smithsonian, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Even more noteworthy is that Hadnar’s work influenced how African-American culture should be expressed.

James Laxton, Cinematographer moonlightWinner of the 2017 Academy Award for Best Picture quoted Hadnar’s work as an inspiration for portraying blacks in the film.

Through the delicately blooming seeds of Hadnar’s image, his artistry was able to see the viewer survive in its beauty, genuine graceful life, and its simplicity.

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KPRC 2 is partnering with Texas Southern University throughout February to celebrate the history of Houston Black. Students from TSU’s Communication School and members of the @ KTSU_2 “The Voice” online team are providing content to @ kprc2 Instagram accounts and other digital platforms at the station. Posts and articles are exclusively researched and produced by TSU students under the supervision of a professor of the Faculty of Communication Studies and the KPRC 2 Digital Team. Student journalist content will be available in February 2022. click2houston.com/blackhistory..


About the author

Isia Robinson (Image courtesy of Isaiah Robinson)

Isaiah Robinson is a TSU writer whose purpose is to capture the hearts of readers through word games and play the heartstrings in a charming way.

About Video Reporter

Jona Baker (Image courtesy of Jonah Baker)

Jona Baker is a multimedia journalist and believes that with a little talk, we can see more in common.

Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston-All rights reserved.

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