John Edwin Mason teaches African history and the history of photography. He has written extensively on early nineteenth-century South African history, especially the history of slavery, photography and South African popular culture with a focus on the Cape Town New Year's Carnival and jazz. His research now concerns African-American and South African photography. He is working on Gordon Parks and American Democracy, a book about the ways in which Parks' Life Magazine photo-essays on poverty and the black liberation struggle and the books that he published during the Civil Rights Era made him one of the era's most significant interpreters of the black experience.
His other research interests include the Kamoinge Workshop, a black photographers' collective, and the visual representation of Africa in American popular media. Mason is also a documentary photographer with a long-term interest in exploring race and gender in American motor sports.