Camille Billops

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Camille Billops
Born (1933-08-12) 12 August 1933 (age 85)
EducationLos Angeles State College
California State University
City College of New York
OccupationVisual artist
Spouse(s)James V. Hatch

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

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 1968, the Hatch-Billops Collection began after Billops met James Hatch, a professor of theater at UCLA, through Billops's stepsister, Josie Mae Dotson, who was Hatch's student.[2] Responding to the lack of publications on African American art and culture, Billops and Hatch began collecting thousands of books and other printed materials, more than 1,200 interviews, and scripts of nearly 1,000 plays.[10][11] 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.[11]

In 1981, Billops and Hatch began publishing Artist and Influence: The Journal of Black American Cultural History, an annual journal featuring interviews with noted American "marginalized artists" across a wide range of genres.[12] To date, more than four hundred interviews have been recorded.[13] Artist and Influence is also part of the collection housed at Emory.

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] Camille acted a play called America Hurrah, which portrays the status of America at that time with her husband James Hatch.[14] Camille Billops also published a book "The Art of Remembering" with her husband James Hatch.[15]

Artist Statement (1996)[edit]

"I don't know if I am that conscious of it, but some people say that our films have a tendency toward dirty laundry. The films say it like it is, rather than how people want it to be. Maybe it is my character that tends to want to do that, because I think the visual arts [artist?] in me wants to say the same kind of thing. So I don't know if I consciously did it; I think it is just my own spirit."[16]

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]

  • 1963: Fellowship from Huntington Hardford Foundation [17]
  • 1975: MacDowell Colony Fellowship[17]
  • 1975-76: International Women's Year Award[17]
  • 1992: Sundance Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize for documentaries for Finding Christa
  • 1994: James VanDerZee Award, Brandywine Graphic Workshop[17]


  • 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

Selected Exhibitions[edit]

  • 1997: Inside the Minstrel Mask, Noel Fine Art Acquisitions, Charlotte, North Carolina[18]
  • 1991: Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, Oakland, California[18]
  • 1990: Clark College, Atlanta, Georgia[18]
  • 1986: Calkins Gallery, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York[18]
  • 1983: American Center, Karachi, Pakistan; Pescadores Hsien Library, Makung, Republic of China[18]
  • 1980: Buchandlung Welt, Hamburg, Germany[18]
  • 1997: Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey[18]
  • 1973: Ornette Coleman's Artist House, New York, New York[18]
  • 1965: Gallerie Akhenaton, Cairo, Egypt[18]


  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; Cassel Oliver, Valerie (2008). Cinema remixed & reloaded : Black women artists and the moving image since 1970. Houston Atlanta Seattle, WA: Contemporary Arts Museum Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, University of Washington Press. pp. 62–69. ISBN 9780295988641. OCLC 227033043.
  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 (1999). The familial gaze. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College. pp. 85–98. ISBN 9780874518955. OCLC 924878323.
  9. ^ Guillory, Monique (2013). "four: the functional family of camille billops". In Bobo, Jacqueline. Black Women Film and Video Artists. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. pp. 68, 81–82. ISBN 9781135225421. OCLC 873136933.
  10. ^ "The Camille Billops and James Hatch Archives – MARBL". Emory University. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  11. ^ a b "Camille Billops and James V. Hatch Archives at Emory University". Hatch, James Vernon, 1928-, Billops, Camille. 2007-02-05. Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  12. ^ A Comprehensive Index to Artist and Influence, the Journal of Black American Cultural History, 1981–1999, Volume 8. Google Books. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  13. ^ Camille Billops and Jim Hatch - Archivists on YouTube
  14. ^ Meer, Ameena (1992-07-01). "Camille Billops (interview)". BOMB Magazine. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  15. ^ closed access publication – behind paywall Winston, Coneni (2012-03-01). "The Art of Remembering: Camille Billops and James Hatch". Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art. Duke University Press. 2012 (30): 36–43. doi:10.1215/10757163-1496453. ISSN 1075-7163. OCLC 4895599761. (Subscription required (help)).
  16. ^ Hooks, Bell (1996). Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies. London: Routledge. p. 141.
  17. ^ a b c d A century of African American art : the Paul R. Jones collection. Amaki, Amalia K. Newark, Del.: University Museum, University of Delaware. 2004. ISBN 0813534577. OCLC 54035257.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i Farris, Phoebe (1999). Women artists of color : a bio-critical sourcebook to 20th century artists in the Americas. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. p. 239. ISBN 0313303746. OCLC 607117768.

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