Phil Freelon

Phil Freelon

Click any image to begin gallery view

Everyone at Craven Allen Gallery is deeply saddened by the passing of Phil Freelon on July 9, 2019.  If you’d like to honor him with a contribution to the North Star Church of the Arts, follow this link.

It has been an privilege to show his photography here at the gallery. Please view this exhibition of his photographs at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington North Carolina, sponsored in part by Craven Allen Gallery.

Phil Freelon’s Works Will Inspire Generations Not Yet Born. But His Most Important Monument Is His Family, IndyWeek

The Phil Freelon I Knew, IndyWeek

Phil Freelon, visionary architect, leaves imprint on buildings across NC and beyond, N&O

Phil Freelon, America’s most prominent black architect, designs for the culture, The Undefeated

Phil Freelon, architect who helped design Smithsonian’s African American Museum, dies at 66, Washington Post

Master Builder:  Phil Freelon, Walter Magazine



Photography has always been essential to the design vision and creative process of award-winning architect Phil Freelon.  From the exquisite symmetry captured in the moment when a single sculler rows down the center of an empty Arno River in Florence, to the painterly diptych of “Working Rust”, in which metal forms create patterns with the raw power of the best abstract painting, Freelon’s keen eye misses nothing. Nationally known as the architect of record for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture currently under construction on the mall in Washington, DC, as well as other important landmarks, including–locally–Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Freelon has honed his photographic vision throughout his long career, and sees a synergy between photography and architecture.

“Structure,” says Freelon, “is central to my design process, bringing a sense of order to the composition. My photographs examine the structure that exists all around us, both in the natural and built environment.”

The photographs are wide ranging, both still life and landscape. While many were taken on his international journeys, Durham features in beautifully toned black and white photographs of the city’s iconic architecture, as well as in incredible time lapse video installations of downtown, which capture the dynamism of the city’s growth and energy.

Freelon holds degrees from NC State, where he has taught photography in the College of Design, and MIT, where he is currently on the faculty. In 2011 he was appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.



Photography is one of the vehicles that I use to share my view of the world. As an Architect, the expression of Structure is central to my design process, bringing a sense of order to the final composition. These photographs examine the Structure that exists all around us – both in the natural and built environment. Behind the lens, I seek to capture those fragments of space and time that invite closer examination. Ambiguity and complexity rendered in crisp detail create the framework for this exploration of Structure.

Within the infinite possibilities of subject matter, composition and timing, the photographer decides what is compelling to her/him. Tripping the shutter confers importance to that moment. This is the prerogative of the photographer and it is this element of individual choice that intrigues me. While the design of complex structures is necessarily a collaborative endeavor, photography is a solitary undertaking – until the time that the finished product is shared.


Phil Freelon was the founder and president of The Freelon Group, Architects – an award winning 55 person firm based in Durham, NC. He studied photography while earning architectural degrees at NC State University’s College of Design and at MIT. In addition to teaching in the architecture departments at his alma maters, Freelon  taught basic, intermediate and advanced level photography courses at NC State’s College of Design.

A native of Philadelphia, PA and a long time resident of Durham, Phil  traveled extensively with a keen interest in expanding his vision through photography. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a recipient of the Loeb Fellowship from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. In 2011 he was appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.