A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE Interviews by African Photo Magazine VIEWFINDERS | Black Women Photographers by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe @1985 PHILLDA RAGLAND-NJAU “P hillda Ragland-Njau, born in Plainfield, New Jersey, in 1939, was the first black woman photographer to be sent on overseas mission assignments by the United Presbyterian Church. At twenty-nine, Phillda was the manager of production for the filmstrip and photography section of the Commission on Ecumenical Missions and relations – the overseas department of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States. Phillda comments, “Being the first black woman photographer in the church of course made a difference, but I thought of my assignment more as a personal journey into life, self-development, and opportunity for spiritual growth through involvement with people.” Phillda goes on to say, “it is the aesthetic and spiritual dimension of photography that interests me, and which I try to put across in my work, whether I am photographing a person, a natural thing, or an object.” From very early on, Phillda captured the imagination of many, gracing the cover of the famed Jet magazine in 1958 when her alma mater, Upsala Collage of New Jersey named a “Negro” as Gazette Girl. In 1966 Phillda was again in the spotlight when she made the cover of Film News and a feature segment in the TIME magazine in 1968. In 1969 she was the subject of an extensive photo feature in Ebony magazine and her work with the church was publicized in The Courier News of New Jersey. ISSUE 7 NOVEMBER 2017 17
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