Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Charles Moore: Civil Rights and Beyond

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Via La Lettre de la Photographie


Charles Moore (1931- 2010) is the most important civil rights era photographer. His searing images of conflict between demonstrators and law enforcement helped propel landmark civil rights legislation.


Moore, the son of a Baptist preacher and car salesman, was born in Hackleburg, Alabama, not far from the birthplace of Helen Keller. In 1958, at 27 years old, as a photographer for the Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama, Moore was on hand to photograph the arrest of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. by two policemen. His photos of the event were distributed nationwide by the Associated Press, and one was published in Life magazine. This photo pushed the regional story into a national debate. It also launched Moore’s long, historic career producing images of the civil rights movement for a nation that would be “shocked and shaken in their conscience” by the images Moore put in their hands.

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Over the next seven years, Moore made some of the most significant pictures of the civil rights movement. As a contract photographer for Life magazine, Moore traveled the South to cover the evolving struggle. His photographs helped bring the reality of the situation to the magazine’s huge audience, which at the time comprised over half the adults in the United States.

Some of the major civil rights era events that Moore covered:

the early efforts of Dr. King to desegregate Montgomery, Alabama, 1958-60;

the violent reaction to the enrollment of James Meredith as the first black student at the University of Mississippi, 1962;

the Freedom March from Tennessee to Mississippi, 1963;

the campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama, 1963;

voter registration drives in Mississippi, 1963-1964;

Ku Klux Klan activities in North Carolina, 1965;

and the marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965.

Moore also photographed the civil war in the Dominican Republic, political violence in Venezuela and Haiti, and the Vietnam conflict. In 1989, Charles Moore received the Kodak Crystal Eagle Award for Impact in Photojournalism. Moore died in March 2010, at age 79, in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk; the High Museum, Atlanta; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; The Menil Collection, Houston; and many others.

Recently, the Steven Kasher gallery in New York present the most comprehensive exhibition of photography by Charles Moore ever undertaken by a gallery or museum. The exhibition, Charles Moore: Civil Rights and Beyond, featured approximately 60 prints, mostly vintage, drawn from the photographer’s estate.


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