Famed 60s sunshine pop band 5th Dimension’s LaMonte McLemore’s additional enduring legacy is that of a photographer, contributing a weekly column “Beauty of the Week” to the renowned publication of African American pop culture, JET. Here, for the first time, is his personal selection of the column’s glory era.
As a founding member and vocalist in the award-winning pop-soul group The 5th Dimension, LaMonte McLemore enjoyed enormous critical and commercial acclaim in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But arguably just as impactful, if not more so, was his career as a photographer cementing Black women and models in American media and cultural history.
McLemore freelanced for JET magazine for more than four decades, principally shooting for its “Beauty of the Week” feature, which encapsulated Black joy, style, and beauty. During this time, he photographed over 500 Black women, most of whom were not professional models. The section, in which a woman was featured in a swimsuit along with her name, place of residence, profession, hobbies, and interests, became one of the most popular among the magazine’s audiences, as it showcased the everyday beauty and elegance of Black women, contributing greatly to what has been called the “first form of social media” by acclaimed contemporary visual artist, Mickalene Thomas. This photographic output serves as a living document of everyday Black fashion and elegance.
Black Is Beautiful: JET Beauties of the Week compiles, for the first time, numerous photographs from McLemore’s “Beauty of the Week” shoots, including never-before-seen outtakes from those sessions. This dynamic coffee table book is a tribute to LaMonte McLemore’s talent and cultural impact, and is a celebration of Black women, Black beauty, and Black culture.
LaMonte McLemore was a vocalist and one of the founding members of the pop-soul group The 5th Dimension—boasting 20 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (with “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” reaching number one), nine Grammy nominations, and six wins, including two Records of the Year—known for their versatile sound and diverse appeal that transcended race, age, and nationality. In 1991, McLemore and the original lineup of the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While touring the world and receiving critical acclaim with the group, McLemore was also a photographer for JET magazine, taking over 30,000 photographs for their “Beauty of the Week” feature. He was also the photographer for Stevie Wonder’s first album cover, and the first African American athlete to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals, followed by a short stint playing for the LA Dodgers until an arm injury. LaMonte McLemore’s work with The 5th Dimension and JET magazine left a significant impact on popular culture, one that can still be seen today.
Chris Murray is a writer, curator, and founder of Govinda Gallery in Washington, DC which, since 1975, has established itself as one of the most innovative, contemporary galleries in the United States. He came to know and exhibit many of the nation’s leading artists during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, including the first exhibition of the celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz, featuring her work as chief photographer at Rolling Stone. Since that time, Govinda Gallery has developed a reputation as the leading gallery in the world representing and exhibiting photographs related to contemporary music. He has edited/co-authored 24 books—on Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, George Harrison, and Patti Smith, to name a few—and has organized more than 250 exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world of many of the leading artists and music photographers of our time.