Camille Billops

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Camille Billops
Born (1933-08-12) 12 August 1933 (age 84)
Los Angeles, California U.S.
Nationality American
Education Los Angeles State College
California State University
City College of New York
Occupation Visual artist
Spouse(s) James V. Hatch

Camille Billops (born 12 August 1933) is an African American sculptor, filmmaker, archivist, and printmaker.

Early life and education[edit]

Billops was born in Los Angeles, California, to parents, Alma Gilmore and Lucius Billops, who worked "in service" for a Beverly Hills family, enabling them to provide her with a private secondary education at a Catholic school.[1][2][3][4] As a young girl, she painted her bow and arrow set and dolls.[5] She traces the beginning of her art to her parents' creativity in cooking and dressmaking.

Billops graduated in 1960 from Los Angeles State College, where she majored in education for physically handicapped children. She obtained her B.A. degree from California State University and her M.F.A. degree from City College of New York in 1975.[1]


Visual art[edit]

Billops's primary visual art medium is sculpture, and her works are in the permanent collections of the Jersey City Museum and the Museum of Drawers, Bern, Switzerland. Billops has exhibited in one-woman and group exhibitions worldwide including: Gallerie Akhenaton, Cairo, Egypt; Hamburg, Germany; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer Gallery, and El Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia. She was a long time friend and colleague of master printmaker Robert Blackburn, whom she assisted in establishing the first printmaking workshop in Asilah in 1978.[1]


Although she began her career as a sculptor, ceramist, and painter, Billops is best known as a filmmaker of the black diaspora.[6] In 1982, Billops began her filmmaking career with Suzanne, Suzanne, a film about her niece and her recovery from a heroin addiction.[4] She followed this by directing five more films, including Finding Christa in 1991, a highly autobiographical work that garnered the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.[4][7]

Her other film credits include Older Women and Love in 1987, The KKK Boutique Ain’t Just Rednecks in 1994, Take Your Bags in 1998, and A String of Pearls in 2002. Billops produced all of her films with her husband and their film company, Mom and Pop Productions.[1]

Billops's film projects have been collaborations with, and stories about, members of her family. For instance, they were co-produced with her husband James Hatch and credit Hatch's son as director of photography. Suzanne, Suzanne studies the relationship between Billop's sister Billie and Billie's daughter Suzanne. Finding Christa deals with Billops's daughter whom she gave up for adoption.[8] Older Women and Love is based on a love affair of Billops's aunt.[9]

Hatch-Billops Collection[edit]

In 1961, the seeds of Hatch-Billops Collection were sown when Billops met James Hatch, a professor of theater at UCLA, through Billops's stepsister, Josie Mae Dotson, who was Hatch's student. A 40-year artistic collaboration followed.[2] The Collection is an archive of African-American memorabilia including thousands of books and other printed materials, more than 1,200 interviews, and scripts of nearly 1,000 plays.[10] Once housed in a 120-foot-long (37 m) loft in lower Manhattan, the Collection is now largely located at the Camille Billops and James V. Hatch archives at the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library at Emory University.

Hatch and Billops also hosted a salon in their Manhattan loft, which led to the publication of Artist and Influence, an annual journal featuring interviews with noted American "marginalized artists" across a wide range of genres.[11] To date, more than four hundred interviews have been recorded.[12]

Collaborative work[edit]

Billops collaborated with photographer James Van Der Zee and poet, scholar, and playwright Owen Dodson on The Harlem Book of the Dead, which was published in 1978 with an introduction by Toni Morrison.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In 1987, Billops married James V. Hatch, a playwright and theater producer.[4] They live in New York City.[1]

Awards and honors[edit]


  • 1982: Suzanne, Suzanne (Documentary short) – Director
  • 1987: Older Women and Love (Documentary short) – Director
  • 1991: Finding Christa (Documentary) – Director, producer, writer
  • 1994: The KKK Boutique Ain’t Just Rednecks – Director
  • 1998: Take Your Bags (Short) – Director
  • 2002: A String of Pearls (Documentary) – Director, producer, production designer
  • 2009: And That's the Way It Is (Short) – Production manager


  1. ^ a b c d e "Camille Billops". The History Makers. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Winston, Connie (Spring 2012). "The Art of Remembering: Camille Billop and James Hatch". Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art. 30: 36–43. ISSN 1075-7163. 
  3. ^ "Billops, Camille (1933– )". Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d Brownlee, Andrea Barnwell (2008). Cinema remixed & reloaded: Black women artists and the moving image since 1970. Atlanta, GA: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta. pp. 62–69. ISBN 978-0-295-98864-1. 
  5. ^ Brownlee, Andrea. Cinema Remixed and Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970. 
  6. ^ Farris, Phoebe. Women Artists of Color: A Bio-critical Sourcebook to 20th Century Artists in the Americas. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999. Print.
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (24 March 1992). "Reviews/Film Festival; Documentary of Mother-Daughter Reconciliation". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ Hirsch, Marianne, ed. (1999). The familial gaze. Hanover: Dartmouth College. ISBN 978-0-87451-895-5. Retrieved 24 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Guillory, Monique (1998). Bobo, Jacqueline, ed. Black Women Film & Video Artists. Routledge. p. 68. ISBN 0-415-92042-6. 
  10. ^ "The Camille Billops and James Hatch Archives – MARBL". Emory University. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  11. ^ A Comprehensive Index to Artist and Influence, the Journal of Black American Cultural History, 1981–1999, Volume 8. Google Books. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  12. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]