Simpson's photographic career began as a fashion photographer for the Village Voice and the Amsterdam News in the early 1980s, and covered many African-American cultural and political events in the mid-1980s. She is also noted for her studies of Harlem nightlife. Her work's ability to present a wide variety of subjects with "depth of character and dignity" has been compared to that of Diane Arbus and Weegee.
The Black Cameo
In addition to her photography, Simpson also designed jewelry. Her most notable jewelry collection is known as The Black Cameo (1990). The collection reintroduces the ancient tradition of cameos, but features portraits of black women. The portraits show the great variety of features of black women. Simpson’s goal was that every black women would be able to identify with the portraits within her cameo jewelry.The success of The Black Cameo lead Simpson’s jewelry clients for her designs to include Ruby Dee, and Oprah Winfrey.
Simpson and Avon Products entered a joint venture in 1993 and created the Coreen Simpson Regal Beauty Collection, a budget line of designs which included a moderately-priced African American cameo.
Simpson's works have been collected by the Museum of Modern Art, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Musee de la Photographie in Belgium, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the International Center for Photography, the Harlem State Office, and the James Van Der Zee Institute.
- The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, 2001
- Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY, 2001, 1998
- Anacostia Museum/Smithsonian, Washington, DC, 2000
- Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NY, 1999
- Musée de la Photographie, Brussels, Belgium, 1998
- International Center of Photography, New York, NY, 1998
- Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY;
- Parsons School of Design, New York, NY
- Light Work Residency, 1987
- Nueva Luz, Volume 1#2
- The Mary McLeod Bethune Award from the National Council of Negro Women, 1994
- The Madame C.J. Walker Award, 2000
- The National Council of Negro Women "Legend's Award", 2006
- Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Black Women Photographers, Writers & Readers, 1993
- "Coreen Simpson", Black Women in America, MacMillan, 1999
- Black Women in America, p. 250.
- "Coreen Simpson". The Black Cameo Collection. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
- "Style Makers; Coreen Simpson, Cameo Designer". The New York Times: A42. February 25, 1990.
- "Museum Trunk Show Event". Studio Museum Harlem. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
- Wilkinson, Deborrah (July 1996). "Afrocentric Marketing: Not Just a Niche". Black Enterprise: 76.
- Hassan, Salah M. (2012-03-20). ""1 + 1 = 3" Joining Forces: Coreen Simpson's Photographic Suite". Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art. 2012 (30): 44–59. doi:10.1215/10757163-1496462. ISSN 1075-7163.
- Moutoussamy-Ashe, Jeanne (1993). Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers. New York: Writers & Readers Publishing, Inc. p. 172. ISBN 0863161588.
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