United States

Period of activity:

from 1966


abstract, creation, documentation, fashion, portrait, documentary, sociology, town-planning


color, black & white, double exposure


Germany, Colombia, Ecuador, United States, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Senegal




  1. Biography
  2. Exhibitions
  3. Bibliography
  4. Collections
  5. Contact

1943  Errol Francis Sawyer is born 8 August in Miami, Florida, USA. He is the son of Robert Earl Sawyer (5 June 1923-11 November 1994),, an African American playwright, actor and director, whose family emigrated from Nassau, Bahamas, to Miami, Florida. His mother is Mamie Lucille Donaldson, an African American Cherokee Indian, whose family lived in Bainbridge, Georgia. His mother had a passion for theatre

1945  Wanda Louise Sawyer, Errol’s sister is born

1950  moves from Florida to New York, Harlem

1953  moves in New York from Harlem to the Bronx

1956  starts to play chess

1961  graduates James Monroe High School

1962-1965  studies History and Political Science at New York University. Moves in New York from the Bronx to Manhattan. Spends time in Greenwich Village: playing chess in Washington Square Park

1964-1965  regular visitor of Micky Ruskin’s Max’s Kansas City where he meets Jimi Hendrix, Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Diane Arbus who takes pictures of Errol in her studio

1966  John Kilb, a friend from Greenwich Village, introduces Errol to Linda Sperling, an art historian, who advises him to go into the arts. Purchases his first camera: a Kowa

1968  Woodstock Festival on August 28

1968-1969  travels around in South America: Colombia, Ecuador and Peru

1969  decides to become a professional photographer and buys a Nikon camera

1970  marries Kathy Agnoli, a photographer’s agent from New York. They divorce two years later

1971  moves to Paris, France, but has to go to London first in order to get tear sheets because he cannot get them in Paris

1972  meets Danny Barnes in London who gives Errol his very first photography commission for: ‘Petticoat.’ Meets Peter Knapp, a photographer and art director at ‘Elle,’ in Paris. Peter Knapp gives Errol his first commission for ‘Elle’

1972-1978  his pictures are published in: ‘Elle,’ ‘Dépêche Mode,’ ‘French Vogue,’ ‘Italian Glamour,’ ‘L’Enfant,’ ‘Marie-France’ and ‘Votre Beauté’

1973  takes pictures of painter Beauford Delaney and actrices Patti d’Arbanville, Jessica Lange and Maria Schneider in Paris. Takes very first model pictures of Christie Brinkley and convinces John Casablanca to accept her into Elite Model Agency in Paris, France

1974  La Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, purchases 36 black & white Silver Gelatin prints, 30 x 40 cm, of the portfolio ‘Children of East End’

1978  goes back to New York to live and work. Burt Yellen becomes his agent. Meets Roger Schoening who gives Errol his first commission for ‘American Vogue’

1978-1984  commissions for: ‘American Vogue,’ ‘Essence,’ ‘Mademoiselle,’ ‘New York Magazine’ and ‘Working Woman’

1984  Wanda Louise Sawyer, Errol’s sister, dies in New York

1984-1988  lives and works in Paris, France

1988-1991  travels on free-lance commissions around Europe: London, Hamburg and Paris

1989  first exhibition at 4th Street Gallery. New York. Theme: ‘Children in East End.’ Marries Rochelle Relyea, a picture model from Toronto, Canada. They divorce two years later

1991  exhibition at Le Musée de la Photographie. Bièvre, France. Theme: ‘Paris.’ Le Musée de la Photographie. Bièvre, France, purchases 6 black & white Silver Gelatin prints, 30 x 40 cm, of the portfolio ‘Paris’

1991-1994  lives and works in New York City

1992  exhibition at Royal Photographic Society, Bath, UK. Theme: ‘Children of East End’

1993  exhibition at Foto Huset Gallery, Göthenburg, Sweden. Theme: ‘Graffiti.’ Exhibition at No Name Gallery, Basel, Switzerland. Theme: ‘Graffiti’

1994  playwright Robert Earl Sawyer, Errol’s father, dies 11 November in Oakland, California, USA. Meets Eric Franck, collector of Fine Art photographs in New York. Commissions for: ‘Mexican Vogue’

1994-1995  lives and works in Amsterdam, Holland

1995-1999  lives and works in New York City

1997  Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, New York, purchases 40 black & white Silver Gelatin prints, 30 x 40 cm of the portfolio ‘New York 1974-1997’

1998  Eric Franck purchases 21 black & white Silver Gelatin prints, 30 x 40 cm, of the portfolio ‘Children of East End’

1999-  lives and works in Amsterdam, Holland. Marries Mathilde Fischer, an architect from Amsterdam. She sets up his archive and becomes his agent. Buys his first Leica camera for his street photography: a Leica M3 camera

2000  exhibition at La Chambre Claire Gallery, Paris, France. Theme: ‘City Mosaic.’ Fadi Zahar, La Chambre Claire Gallery, buys 3 black &white Silver Gelatin prints, 30 x 40 cm of the portfolio ‘City Mosaic’

2001  La Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, purchases 1 black &white Silver Gelatin prints, 30 x 40 cm ‘Homeless’ Washington Square Park, New York, 1995. Herman Hoeneveld writes the article ‘While reading, looking becomes seeing’ about Errol in ‘PF Magazine,’ 2-2001, Holland

2002  guest teacher photography at ISA, International School of Amsterdam, Holland. Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK, includes work in Art Library. Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas, USA, purchases 2 black &white Silver Gelatin prints, 30 x 40 cm, in the Manfred Heiting Collection: ‘Mirror Reflections of Martha Carr.’ New York, 1970. Buys a Leica R6 camera

2003  two person exhibition at the Dominikaner Kloster, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Theme: ‘Poverty’

2005  Victor Leonard Sawyer, son of Errol Sawyer and Mathilde Fischer, is born 1 March in Amsterdam, Holland. Two person exhibition RCA, Revalidation Centre Amsterdam, Holland. Theme: ‘City Mosaic’

2006-to date  guest professor photography at TUD, Technical University Delft, Holland

2007  opens a daylight studio in Amsterdam, Holland. Buys a Leica R9 camera

2008  makes a darkroom for the development and printing of his black & white Fine Art pictures in Amsterdam, Holland

2009  receives a grant from Stichting Sem Presser Archief, Holland, to publish his first book City Mosaic containing 64 black & white pictures of mainly New York, Paris and Amsterdam. Receives a grant from NCDO, National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development, Holland, to travel to Diofior, Senegal, in Africa in order to make a photo reportage of a project of Multi-Pass, a multicultural passage, founded by Esther Langen. Lucille Williams, Errol’s mother, dies 13 November in the Bronx, New York, USA

2010  exhibition at Royal Gallery, Amsterdam, Holland. Theme: ‘Diofior, a Village in Senegal.’ Exhibition at the Town Hall of Amsterdam, Holland. Theme: ‘Diofior, a Village in Senegal’

Personal Exhibitions


1989-1990  4° Street Gallery, New York (USA), 'Children of East End'

1991  Le Musée Français de la Photographie, Bièvres (F), 'Paris'

1992  Royal Photographic Society, Bath (GB), 'Children of East End'

1993  Foto Huset, Göteborg (S), 'Graffiti'. No Name Gallery, Bâle (CH), 'Graffiti'

2000  La Chambre Claire, Paris (F), 'City Mosaic'

2003  Dominikaner Kloster, Frankfurt (D), 'Poverty'

2005  RCA, Revalidation Centre of Amsterdam (NL), 'City Mosaic'

2010  Royal Gallery, Amsterdam (NL), 'Diofior, a Village in Senegal'. Town Hall, Amsterdam (NL), 'Diofior, a Village in Senegal'

Books / Monographies


1968  'Peru & Ecuador 1968' (23 n/b, 13 couleur) not published

1973  'London Children 1973' (40 n/b) not published

2003  'Paris, 1971-2003' (64 n/b) not published

2007  'New York 1971-2007' (120 images: 84 n/b, 36 couleur) not published

2009  'Senegal Diofior 2009' (40 n/b) not published

2010  'Amsterdam 1988-2012' (64 n/b) not published. 'City Mosaic' Errol Sawyer Foundation, Amsterdam (NL), essays by A. D. Coleman and Franziska Bollerey, foreword by Mathilde Fischer, book design by Charlotte and Mathilde Fischer (1 000 copies)

Press / Magazines


2001  PF Magazine (NL) 2: Herman Hoeneveld 'While Reading, Looking Becomes Seeing'

2011  Het Parool (NL), February 23, Jos Bloemkolk, 'People from Amsterdam and New York look alike'

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris (36 n/b 'Children of East End' + 1n/b 'New York 1995'); Musée Français de la Photographie, Bièvres (6 n/b 'Paris'); Schomburg Library of Black Culture Harlem, The New York Public Library, New York (40 n/b 'New York 1974-1997'), Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas (2 n/b in Manfred Heiting Collection 'Mirror Reflections of Martha Carr')


Errol Sawyer Foundation, 1e Weteringdwarsstraat 39
NL-1017 TL Amsterdam



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