Phillda’s work for the church’s overseas department included photographing the social and economic projects that the church sponsored in many foreign countries. Some of her interesting photographs were collected for an exhibition, “Kids Next Door,” that drew large crows to the church’s headquarters in New York. At the same time that she was teaching an adult education class in scriptwriting and in shooting and editing motion pictures, Phillda received her Master’s degree at Columbia University, with her earlier enrollment making the press in New York Beat as a singular event of note! 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 Jet Magazine, March 1958 Initially hired as a photo librarian for the United Presbyterian Church, Phillda’s big break came when Fred Haines, a photographer for the home office, taught her the basic camera techniques. “Fred was so helpful, giving up weekends to guide me along,” says Phillda. When her boss, Dr. Archie Crouch noticed her progress, he sent her to Latin America in 1967 for her first overseas assignment, trading her summer vacation for this great challenge. On her assignment, Phillda used an old Rollei-cord 120 box camera and a separate handheld light meter, later graduating to a Minolta Pentax 35mm. Phillda undertook other several assignments, including conferences and photo features for articles about black women. As the official photographer for a black clergymen’s conference in St. Louis, Phillda was among the handful of women in the assembly of about four hundred black clergymen, and the only woman photographer in the press pit. That year Phillda was named New Jersey’s Outstanding Young Woman of the Year, an honour given to young women for their accomplishments. After the Latin America assignment, Phillda went on to also document the United Presbyterian Church’s activities in Europe in 1968, and it was on her assignment to East Africa in 1969 that she met the man who was to later become her husband, Elimo Njau. Elimo was a Tanzanian mural painter and Phillda had been sent on assignment to cover his work as a Christian artist. Elimo invited Phillda to join the East African International Arts Programme, which sponsored two art centres, one in Tanzania, the Kibo Art Gallery, and one in Kenya, the Paa ya Paa Art Gallery. Phillda’s earlier travels to Jet Magazine, March 1958 VIEWFINDERS, Black Women Photographers, 1985 Ebony Magazine, March 1969 18 africanphotomagazine ISSUE 7 NOVEMBER 2017 19
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