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Movie stars, jazz icons, water and light: photographer Adger Cowans reflects on his life’s work

Adger Cowans Reflects on His Life’s Work
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
Adger Cowans sits in his Bridgeport studio during an interview in February 2022. The photographer and visual artist reflected on his expansive career — spanning Hollywood movie sets to photographing musicians of the jazz era. Cowans also worked with and was close friends with Gordon Parks, a celebrated photographer and movie director who was the first Black staff photographer at LIFE magazine.

Adger Cowans is an 85-year-old photographer and visual artist in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He worked with Gordon Parks and photographed jazz greats, movie stars and Hollywood sets — and bore witness to several eras of American history through the lens of his camera. In this video, he reflects on his life’s work, the racism he faced working in a predominantly white industry and what motivates him to make art.

You can see Cowans's work in a new exhibition at the Fairfield University Art Museum until June 18.

Video by Ryan Caron King

Fairfield University is a partner of Connecticut Public.

Ryan Caron King joined Connecticut Public in 2015 as a reporter and video journalist. He was one of eight dedicated reporters on the New England News Collaborative’s launch team, covering regional issues such as immigration, the environment, transportation, and the opioid epidemic. His work has been published nationally on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now, and on NPR’s digital platforms. From 2017 to 2018, Ryan was on a team covering the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for “Excellence in Video.” Since 2019, he has been a full-time visuals journalist.

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