MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM has been a commercial photographer for over sixteen years, and his clients have included some of the world’s largest corporations: Coca-Cola, RJR Tobacco, Sara Lee, Wachovia Bank, among others. He is the Executive Director of Urban Shutterbugs, a nonprofit organization aimed at teaching the fine art of black and white photography to inner-city youth. Cunningham is a member of American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), and is a board member of the Washington, DC chapter. He has one daughter, Kamari, and resides in Washington, DC.





50 Phenomenal Black Women Over 50

By Michael Cunningham and Connie Briscoe

Little, Brown and Company – April 11, 2007

Photographer Michael Cunningham (coauthor of Crowns) and author Connie Briscoe, a New York Times bestselling novelist, profile 50 women over the age of 50 who have been remarkably successful—whether in reaching the top of the corporate ladder, finding fame in politics or the arts, or raising a son to be proud of a single mother—and reveal the ways that they have prevailed despite daunting obstacles. Their stories are paired with Cunningham’s intimate portraits of the women.

Jewels includes well-known and little-known women alike, from teachers and executives to artists, authors, and entertainers. Among the celebrities profiled in the book are Ruby Dee, Eleanor Holmes Norton, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Marion Wright Edelman. Coauthor Connie Briscoe also appears here as one of the featured Jewels, telling her inspiring personal story. World-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator Nikki Giovanni contributes an original poem to the book.


Praise for JEWELS

Jewels, a captivating and gorgeous exploration of fifty phenomenal black women over fifty, is an inspiring treasure to behold.”—E. Lynn Harris, author of I Say a Little Prayer

“In this youth-obsessed culture, thank God Michael Cunningham and Connie Briscoe decided to celebrate women over fifty. They have wisdom and, to me, there’s nothing more attractive than that. Seeing the extraordinary women on these pages, black women who know who they are, is simply splendid.”—Benilde Little, author of Who Does She Think She Is?

“This book will have special resonance for black women, but offers its inspirational message to all.”—Publishers Weekly

“A beautiful and inspirational book.”—Booklist




Portraits of Black Women and their Fabulous Hair

By Michael Cunningham and George Alexander

Doubleday – November 1, 2005

Crowns photographer Michael Cunningham and author and journalist George Alexander have captured the marvelous trinity of black women, hair, and beauty salons in the glorious Queens: Portraits of Black Women and Their Fabulous Hair.

Angela Garner says that “The beauty salon is the one great thing we get to share as African American women. It’s therapeutic.” Tisch Sims says that wearing fantasy hair makes her feel “like a goddess, a queen.”

From the afro to the ponytail to dreadlocks to braids to relaxed hair to fantasy hair; from “good hair” to bad hair days, in this stunningly designed book black women from the United States, Africa, and London explore the fascination with hair and beauty that has long been a cherished part of African American culture.

In fifty gorgeous photographs accompanied by vivid, personal narratives, Queens, by turns moving and funny, is the ultimate all-occasion gift book, perfect for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Mother’s Day, and birthdays.



A Portrait of America’s Most Exciting Neighborhood

By Craig Marberry and Michael Cunningham

Doubleday – November 18, 2003

The creative team behind the smash hit Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats returns with a glorious tour of the spirit of Harlem—a collection of fifty stunning black-and-white photographs and unforgettable interviews that capture the heart and soul of one of the most famous and vibrant neighborhoods in the world.

Harlem, long known as the epicenter of black cultural life in America, is undergoing a radical change. An unprecedented infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars in development capital is revitalizing the community and transforming a cityscape marred by decades of poverty. In a striking show of exuberance, upscale shops are materializing in once-abandoned buildings, new homes are popping up in vacant lots, and sheets of glass twinkle in place of grim, boarded-up windows. The economic renewal has lured a host of new people to the neighborhood—doctors, lawyers, investment bankers, and even a former president. But it has also posed a threat to many residents who have lived through the worst of times and now fear that they will lose their homes and livelihoods as boom times sweep in.

Spirit of Harlem documents this extraordinary period of transition through the words and faces of newcomers and longtime residents alike. There are reminiscences of Harlem during the 1920s through the 1960s, stories of friends and families gathering at churches, in local shops, and on the streets, and thoughts on what the future holds for the neighborhood.

Millions of tourists visit Harlem each year, and many people in the United States can trace their roots to this legendary area or have read about its remarkable history and impact on American life and culture. In more than fifty stunning portraits and essays, Spirit of Harlem brings all its splendor, rancor, drama, and glamour vividly to life.


The voices of Spirit of Harlem:

“The minute you step out your door, everything in Harlem is in your face. There is a beauty and a poetry in all that…”—Lana Turner, real estate broker

“Bubba and me thought Harlem was Heaven, all the lights and the sights. I asked my aunt, ‘Where do all the white people live?’”—Rev. Betty Neal

“When I came up from the subway, I said, ‘Oh man, I’m lost!’ But then I saw the Apollo and it blew me away. I said, ‘Wow, this is it! I’m in Harlem!’ I had never been to Harlem before, but I just knew I belonged here.”—Bryan Collier, author and artist



Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats

By Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry

Doubleday – October 17, 2000

Countless black women would rather attend church naked than hatless. For these women, a church hat, flamboyant as it may be, is no mere fashion accessory; it’s a cherished African American custom, one observed with boundless passion by black women of various religious denominations. A woman’s hat speaks long before its wearer utters a word. It’s what Deirdre Guion calls “hattitude…there’s a little more strut in your carriage when you wear a nice hat. There’s something special about you.” If a hat says a lot about a person, it says even more about a people-the customs they observe, the symbols they prize, and the fashions they fancy.

Photographer Michael Cunningham beautifully captures the self-expressions of women of all ages—from young glamorous women to serene but stylish grandmothers. Award-winning journalist Craig Marberry provides an intimate look at the women and their lives. Together they’ve captured a captivating custom, this wearing of church hats, a peculiar convergence of faith and fashion that keeps the Sabbath both holy and glamorous.

The book has received enormous national media attention including coverage in The New York Times, USA Today, and The CBS News Sunday Morning Show. Now in its seventh printing, Crowns has sold over 110,000 copies. Additionally, a calendar on the project was released in 2002 and 2003 by Workman Publishing. Further, a theatrical production of Crowns has played to sold-out audiences across the U.S. and Canada, and is currently still on tour.

Jessica SpiveyC