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Remembering Christine Jean Chambers Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

19 December 2019

Christine Jean Chambers passed away in Manhattan earlier this month from complications of a lung infection at the age of 39. She had suffered from lupus since she was 12.

She made her mark photographing the emerging black theater movement at the National Black Theater and the Public Theater in New York. Her work was published in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, among others, and also in playbills.

She also wrote several plays, performed in small New York theaters, that explored what it means to be biracial.

'People trusted her and loved the way she made them look and feel.'

Biracial herself, Chambers was born in 1980 in Northampton, Mass. Her white mother was a therapist and social worker. Her black father taught sociology at the University of Massachusetts and Greenfield Community College before becoming a social worker.

She received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Virginia in 2004 and studied for her master's of fine arts in playwriting at Columbia.

She had been taking pictures since she was a child. But as a graduate student at Columbia University, she began taking professional head shots of her friends there and at Juilliard.

She followed their careers in the black theaters and theater festivals that led to television, film and Broadway appearances for them.

As their careers took off, so did hers.

She photographed the actresses Amber Gray, Samira Wiley, Teyonah Parris, Amelia Workman and April Matthis, as well as the singer Martha Redbone and the bandleader Jon Batiste.

In a recent interview her sister said, "She had a particular way of working with her subjects, especially with us, people of color. It was nurturing and empowering. People trusted her and loved the way she made them look and feel."

Her sister also noted that it had become quite an effort for Chambers to handle a camera in recent years as her illness progressed. "Her hands and joints had frozen," she said.

A note on the Public Theater's Web site says:

Photographer Christine Jean Chambers was a cherished member of The Public Theater community and we are saddened to share the news of her passing. Christine captured the strength of our for colored girls... all women of color creative team in addition to other projects at The Public. We felt Christine's presence in the audience of last night's all women of color attended performance of for colored girls... and will be missed greatly.

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