Brian Palmer currently lives in Virginia, where for ten years his focus — as an image maker, journalist, citizen, and descendant of enslaved people — has been illuminating what his collaborator and wife, Erin Hollaway Palmer, calls “the afterlife of Jim Crow.” Brian and Erin see this legacy of systemic racism and privilege in the continued funding of Confederate monuments and sites across the South, even as the Black Lives Matter Movement complicates and enriches the collective American narrative; and in the persistent neglect and underfunding of African American sites of memory. Since the end of 2014, Brian and Erin have been part of the volunteer effort to reclaim East End Cemetery, a historic African American burial ground in Henrico County, Virginia.

Palmer’s work — writing, photography, audio, and video — has appeared in the New York Times, The New Republic, The Nation, Smithsonian Magazine and The Virginia Quarterly Review, and on Buzzfeed, PBS, the BBC, and Reveal. Before going freelance in 2002, he served in a number of staff positions — Beijing bureau chief for US News & World Report; staff writer at Fortune; and on-air correspondent at CNN. He began his career in the late 1980s as a fact-checker for the Village Voice.

With colleagues Seth Wessler and Esther Kaplan, Palmer received the Peabody Award, National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence Award, and Online Journalism Award for “Monumental Lies,” a 2018 Reveal radio story about public funding for Confederate sites. He is a founding member of the Friends of East End Cemetery, an organization devoted to the reclamation of a historic African American burial ground under threat from multiple forces. He’s also among the founders of the Descendants Council of relatives of African Americans laid to rest in segregated burial grounds in greater Richmond and concerned citizens from the broader Black community. In 2008, he received a Ford Foundation Knowledge, Creativity, and Freedom grant to complete a television-length documentary about his three trips to Iraq to document the actions of a US Marine combat unit, 1st Battalion/2d Regiment.

Palmer is a member of the board of directors of the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City, where he earned his MFA in 1990. He serves as SVA’s representative to Writing with Light (, an initiative he started with theorist Fred Ritchin in 2022 in response to the incursion of generative artificial intelligence into the realm of nonfiction or straight photography. From August 2021 to June 2023, he served as the Joan Konner Visiting Professor of Journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Palmer’s photographs are in the collections of the Library of Congress, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and private citizens, and they have been exhibited at Richmond’s 1708 Gallery, the University of Richmond Museums, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Adelphi University, Haverford College, Washington University in St. Louis and others.

Works by Brian Palmer include:
Friends of East End nonprofit organization, Richmond, VA
Historic African-American Cemeteries, an ongoing photo series on Brian Palmer’s website
American Homegoing, an ongoing photo series
2020-22: Reckoning, Resistance and Refacement in the City of Richmond, a photo series
“From the Mixed-Up Files of the Enrichmond Foundation,” an investigative piece at RVA Magazine “Covid-19 Changes Funeral Traditions,” an article for the Richmond Free Press
“Largest slave revolt in U.S. history lives on in reenactment,” a feature video for PBS News Weekend “Surviving the Journey,” an article about the 400th anniversary of 1619 for the Richmond Free Press “The Costs of the Confederacy,” an article on the funding of Confederate monuments written for Smithsonian Magazine with Seth Freed Wessler
“Monumental Lies,” a Peabody Award-winning radio story about funding for Confederate memorials, available at Reveal “For the Forgotten African-American Dead,” an opinion piece and photo essay for the New York Times “My Inspiring Year Uncovering Forgotten African-American Graves,” an essay for Narratively “Why Does This Old Cemetery Matter?” an article about Richmond’s East End Cemetery for Reading the Pictures Race Trips: Confederate Lies and Apple Pie, a seven-part investigative series written for Colorline with partner Erin Holloway Palmer

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Jun 09 - 23 2024

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