Hugh Bell was a renowned art and commercial photographer, who worked in New York City over the course of his entire professional career. Upon his death in 2012, his son-in-law, Richard Martha, was named Executor of the Estate of Hugh Bell. In 2014, a boutique archival firm, Gartenberg Media Enterprises (GME), was engaged on an exclusive basis by the Bell Estate to manage the collection of Hugh Bell’s photographs and to further the artist’s legacy.
Hugh Cecil Bell was born in 1927 in Harlem, New York City to parents from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. As a young man he first attended City College, and then graduated in 1952 with a degree in Journalism and Cinematic Art from NYU. After NYU, Bell put his Film Degree to use and found work as a cameraman for television commercials.
In addition to jazz clubs, Bell went to and photographed local boxing matches, dance performances and legitimate plays, including Jean Genet’s “The Blacks,” a seminal theatrical production starring James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Brown, Cicely Tyson, Maya Angelou, and Godfrey Cambridge, that was mounted at the St. Mark’s Playhouse in 1961.
Bell opened his own studio in Manhattan in the 1960’s. Over the course of the ensuing decades, he worked as a commercial photographer. He produced photographs for print advertisements; many of which were targeted specifically to the Black community.
Interspersed with his commercial work, Bell also focused on portraiture. During this period, he is most known for his images of the female figure. In 1970, a series of these portraits were published in Avant Garde magazine in a feature entitled, “Bell’s Belles”. Throughout this period, he also traveled to the West Indies, focusing on the region of his geographical heritage. He photographed carnivals in Trinidad and Haiti, and daily life in Antigua. He also traveled to Brazil, where he took photographs of the local citizenry.
Hugh Bell passed away on October 31, 2012. He left behind an extensive and wide-ranging photographic legacy that is now ready for rediscovery.