Profile: Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe (1951-)

Jeanne Moutoussamy-Asheis an American photographer and activist. She is best known for her work in magazines, newspapers, and several photography books, and also as an AIDS activist.

Early life and education

Moutoussamy-Ashe was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 9, 1951. Her mother’s family was from Arkansas, and her father’s family came from New Orleans and Guadalupe. Both parents were professionals in art-related fields. Her mother, Elizabeth Rose Hunt Moutoussamy, was an interior designer, and her father, John Warren Moutoussamy, was an architect. They encouraged her to pursue her own artistic interests by enrolling her in weekend classes at the Art Institute of Chicago when she was eight years old. At the age of 18 a family friend, Frank Stewart, introduced her to photography. After her application to the Cooper Union School of Art was rejected, she studied with Garry Winogrand for a summer and then reapplied. Moutoussamy-Ashe went on to earn her BFA from the Cooper Union in 1975. Before graduating, she spent her junior year in West Africa to complete independent study in photography.


After graduating, Moutoussamy-Ashe worked as a graphic artist and in television photojournalism for WNBC and WNEW in New York, and also for PM Magazine. Her friend, Gordon Parks suggested that she obtain credentials to photograph the 1968 United Negro College Fund Tennis Tournament organized by tennis champion Arthur Ashe.

Over the course of her career, Moutoussamy-Ashe has contributed photographs to many magazines and newspapers, including Life, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, People Weekly, Ebony, Black Enterprise, World Tennis, Self, and Essence.

Personal life

Moutoussamy-Ashe married Arthur Ashe in 1977 and gave birth to daughter, Camera, in 1987.Nineteen months after Camera’s birth, Arthur was diagnosed as HIV positive, after contracting the disease via a blood transfusion he received during heart bypass surgery.

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