Lewis Watts

Research Interests: 


Photography, Affiliated Faculty Social Documentary Graduate Program, Digital Arts New Media.

Lewis Watts is a photographer, archivist/curator and professor of Art at UC Santa Cruz. His research and artwork centers primarily on cultural landscape. Focusing on African American communities in Oakland, Richmond , San Francisco, New Orleans and Harlem. He has been teaching photography at UCSC and UC Berkeley since 1978.

He is co-author of the 2006 book, Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era, which features his restorations of salvaged photographs that portray musicians and patrons of the vibrant jazz scene in the Fillmore District during the 1940s and 50s. He has a pending book, “New Orleans Suite”, co-written with Prof. Eric Porter, due to be published by UC Press in 2013. He is also working on an extended photographic project in Cuba.


Mailing Address: 

Art Department 

Baskin Visual Arts

UC Santa Cruz

1156 High Street

Santa Cruz, CA 95064


Education and Training: 
MA Design, UC Berkeley 1973
BA Political Science, UC Berkeley 1968
University of Copenhagen 1968
Selected Publications: 




New Orleans Suite, co-authored with Eric Porter (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, forthcoming 2013).

Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006), co-authored with Elizabeth Pepin.


“Harlem: A Century in Images,” Studio Museum in Harlem (New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2010).

Performance Program, The American Conservatory Theater, for the play,

“Marcus or The Secret of Sweet,” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, San Francisco, CA, 2010.

Bomb Magazine #109, Brooklyn, NY, Fall 2009.

Posing Beauty: African American Images from 1890 to the Present, ed.

Deborah Willis (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009).

“Photographing in Harlem,” photo essay by Lewis Watts, Global City Review22, Spring/Summer 2009.

“Double Exposure: African Americans Before and Behind the Camera,” catalog for exhibit at the Museum of African Diaspora, San Francisco. Organized by the Amistad Center For Arts & Culture, Hartford, CT, 2008.

“Intercambio, Double Exposure: African Americans Before and Behind the Camera,” by Lisa Henry.  Nueva Luz, photographic journal (Bronx: En Foco, 2008).

“Blacks: In and Out of the Box,” exhibit catalog and DVD, California African American Museum, Los Angeles, 2008.

“33 Ways to say ‘black’ and ‘box’,” by Lynell George. Los Angeles Times article on the exhibit “Blacks: In and Out of the Box,” Dec. 9, 2007.

“Subject Matters, Traveling Exhibitions 2007-2008,” catalog of artists working on socially conscious subjects.

Souls: A Critical Journal Of Black Politics, Culture and Society: Higher Ground. The Center for Contemporary Black History, The Institute for Research in African American Studies, Columbia University, NY, 9:1, Jan.-March 2007.

“Jazz Detective,” by Scott Rappaport. Article on Lewis Watts’ research on Harlem of the West book and exhibit. UC Santa Cruz Review, Fall 2006. 

“First Europeans, Then Japanese, Then Blacks Found a Home,” by Elizabeth Pepin and Lewis Watts, New Fillmore Newspaper, August 2006.  

“Engulfed By Katrina: Photographer Before and After the Storm,” catalog for exhibit at the Nathan Cummings Foundation and The Tisch School

of Arts, New York University, NY, 2006.     

“Katrina Revisited, The View From Here,” photographs in “Please Don’t Shoot the Photographer,” Metro Santa Cruz, Feb. 1-8, 2006. 

“Fillmore District’s Jazzed-up Glory Days,” San Francisco Chronicle Datebook, Jan. 22, 2006. 

City Bountiful: A Century Of Community Gardening in America, by Laura J. Lawson,   (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005).

Row: Trajectories Through the Shotgun House, Architecture at Rice 40, by David Brown and William Williams (Houston: Rice School of Architecture, 2004).

The Spirit of Family, by Al and Tipper Gore (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2002).

33 Things Every Girl Should Know Abut Women’s History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A, ed. Tonya Bolden (New York: Crown, 2002).

Capturing Light, Masterpieces of California Photography, 1850 To The Present, Oakland Museum of California (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2001).

Reflections in Black, A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present, ed. Debra Willis (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000).

9th Annual Falkirk Lifework Award Exhibit Catalog, Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael, CA, 1999.

Contact Sheet 101: Lewis Watts, South to West Oakland, exhibition catalog, Light Work, Syracuse, NY, 1999.

The Language of Landscape, by Anne Whiston Spirn (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).

Urban Footprints: Photographs by Lewis Watts, exhibit catalog, Oakland Museum of California, 1998.

The Museum of California Magazine, 22:3, Summer 1998.

Contact Sheet 96, Light Work, Syracuse, 1998.

Contact Sheet 91, Light Work, Syracuse, 1997.

Urban Diaries, Walter Hood, Land Marks, 1997.

The History of Art, ed. H.J. Janson (New York: Harry Abrams, 1995).

Youth Violence, Urban Strategies Council, Children's Defense Fund, Oakland,  CA, 1994.

Architects House Themselves: Breaking New Ground, by Michael Webb (Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1994).

Blues & Jazz, Landscape Improvisations, by Walter Hood, photography by Lewis Watts (Berkeley: Poltoon Press, 1993).

Black Photographer's Annual, Vol. 2, 1974; Vol. 3, 1976.


Selected Exhibitions: 

SOLO EXHIBITIONS “New Orleans Suite & Ruminations About Cuba”, Sesnon Gallery, U.C. Santa Cruz. 2012 “Lewis Watts: Evidence,” Galerie Califia, Horazdovice, Czech Republic, 2011 “New Orleans Suite,” in collaboration with the play, “The Brother’s Size,” by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Magic Theatre, San Francisco, CA, 2010 “Lens On Life, Lewis Watts, Evidence,” San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco Art Commission, CA, 2007 “Lewis Watts, Recent Photographs: Cultural Landscapes,” San Marco Gallery, Dominican University of California, San Rafael, CA, 2003 “Photographs/Lewis Watts,” Baton Rouge Gallery, Baton Rouge, LA, 2003 “Photography by Lewis Watts,” The Bolinas Museum, Bolinas, CA, 2001 “Lewis Watts, Photographs,” Neuberger Museum of Art, SUNY Purchase, NY, 2000 “Lifework” Exhibit, Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael, CA, 1999 “Photography of Lewis Watts,” Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, 1999 “Lewis Watts, South To West Oakland,” Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, 1999 "Urban Foot Prints: The Photography of Lewis Watts," Oakland Museum of California, CA, 1998-99 Vision North Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 1995. GROUP EXHIBITIONS “Old Harlem New Harlem” Broadway Housing Community, 2012 “Sin and Redemption,” The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artists Gallery, 2012 “Posing Beauty In African American Culture,” Fisher Museum of Art, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 2011 “Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present,” Newark Museum. Lectured, met with Central High School students, participated in artists’ panel discussion, Newark, NJ, 2011 “Harlem Postcards Fall/Winter 2010-11,” Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, 2010 “High Water Marks: Art & Renewal After Katrina,” The Amistad Center For Art and Culture, Hartford, CT, 2010 “Double Exposure: African Americans Before & Behind the Camera,” Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona State College, FL, 2010 “Infix: The Grammar of Insertion,” curated by Rico Reyes, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artist’s Gallery, CA, 2010 “The View From Here,” work from the Permanent Collection Celebrating the 75th Anniversary, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA, 2010 “Alternative Exposure / Home Is Something I Carry With Me,” an alternative art exhibition considering the contested notion of home. Curated by Adrienne Skye Roberts in domestic spaces in the San Francisco Mission District, CA, 2009 Richmond Memorial Civic Center Revitalization Project Public Art Exhibit, Richmond, CA, 2009 “Posing Beauty In, African American Culture,” NYU Tisch School of the Arts, New York, NY, 2009 “Signs: Wordplay in Photography,” The De Young Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA, 2009 “The Sky is Gray,” A visual response to the life work of Ernest Gaines. The Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Exhibition Gallery in the Shaw Center for the Arts, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, 2008 “Double Exposure: African Americans Before and Behind the Camera,” Museum of The African Diaspora, San Francisco, CA, 2008 “Blacks In and Out Of The Box,” California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA, 2007 “Fuse/Fereru,” Collaborative exhibit by the Art Faculties of UC Santa Cruz, the Tokyo Zokei University and the Kyoto Univeresity of Art and Design. Sesnon Gallery, Santa Cruz, The Zokei Gallery, and University Museum, Tokyo, Gallery AUBE, Kyoto, Japan, 2007 “Facing Facts: An Exhibition of Contemporary Photographic Portraiture,” The De Young Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA, 2006 “Engulfed By Katrina: Photographs Before And After The Storm,” Nathan Cummings Foundation and The Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, NY, 2006 “One Hundred Years of Solitude: Chronicles of (Un) Homely Labyrinths,” Sam Francis Gallery, Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA, 2005 “New Photographs, Recent Acquisitions,” The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA, 2005 “Southern Journeys: African American Art of and about the South,” curated by Stella Jones and Eloise Johnson, Alexandria Museum of Art, Alexandria, LA, 2004 “Zero & One: An exhibition of Digital Photography,” curated by Jack Fulton, Art Works Downtown, San Rafael, CA, 2004. “Saturday Night/Sunday Morning,” Leica Gallery, New York, NY, 2003. “Faculty Works 2003,” Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, 2003 “Picturing Modernity: Photographs from the Permanent Collection,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA, 2002 “Scene In Oakland, 1852-2002,” For the City’s 150th Anniversary, Oakland Museum of California, CA, 2003 “The Legacy of Gordon Parks: A Selection of Contemporary Bay Area Photographers,” Oakland Museum of California, CA, 2002 “Five California Photographers,” Thomas Reynolds Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 2001 “Reflecting Black: Counternarratives by Seven Bay Area Artists / Photographers,” Bomani Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 2001 “Capturing Light: Masterpieces of California Photography, 1840-Present,” The Oakland Museum of California, CA, 2001 “Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photography, 1840 to the present,” Anacostia Museum of Center for African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 2000 Insight 94 Public Arts, San Diego, CA, 1994 Meervaart Cultural Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1991 "Home Show," Studio Museum in Harlem, NY, 1990 Traveling exhibition, African American photographers to Soviet Union, 1977-79 "Black Photographer's Annual," San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1979 "Workers," The Oakland Museum, CA, 1976 CURATORIAL WORK “Harlem of the West: Jazz, Bebop & Beatnik,” California African American Museum, Los Angeles, 2010 “Harlem of the West Revisited,” exhibit of photographs and memorabilia from the San Francisco Jazz Era, Jazz Heritage Center, Fillmore St. San Francisco, 2009 “Memories of Macdonald Ave,” historical researcher and consultant for public art signage project, Richmond, CA, 2007-8 “Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era,” The San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum, San Francisco CA. Curated and printed images from the book at http://www.sfpalm.org/exhibits/Harlem/Harlem.htm, 2006 Historical researcher and curator in design team for the Richmond Bay Trail Signage Project, WWII National Park, Richmond, CA, 2004 “A Photographic History of the Fillmore,” nine-panel installation in storefronts in the San Francisco Fillmore District, CA, 2003 “Images of China,” Bolinas Museum, Bolinas, CA, 1999 "Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Archives," San Francisco Art Commission Gallery, CA, 1998

Honors and Awards: 

 2012 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Community Partnershop Foundation Grant.

2011      Major Grant, Arts Research Institute, UCSC, for project, “Cultural Landscape in Cuba.”  2011  Honorarium from the Newark Museum, NJ, for workshop at                 Newark Central High School and Artists Panel Discussion in                   support of the exhibit, “Posing Beauty,” at the museum.        

2010   Grant from the Arts Research Institute, UCSC, for project,   “Cultural Landscape in Cuba.                               

2009      Visiting Artist in Baja Mexico as part of Photo Septiembre 2009, the photo biennial.  Sponsored by the Cultural Institute of Baja California and the U.S. Consulate.                        

2008-9   Grant, City of Richmond, CA, Redevelopment Agency, to research and curate visual markers on Macdonald Avenue, tracing the city history as part of the Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront National Park                                 

2005     Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley.

2005    Guest Speaker at the Commencement of the College of Environmental Design, University of  California, Berkeley        

2003-4   Grant from California Coastal Conservancy, Association of Bay Area Government's Bay Trail Project and Richmond Redevelopment Agency as part of the design team for the Interpretive Signage Project along the SF Bay Trail installed in the fall of 2004.                                                                               

2002  Commission, the Rice University School of Architecture, to photograph Row Houses, vernacular art and communities in Houston for forum and publication on the shotgun house and African American architectural practice.  (Publication: Brown, David, Williams, William,  Row: Tratectories Through the Shotgun House, Architecture at Rice 40, Rice School of Architecture, Houston, 2004).