Thursday, September 22, 2011

Exhibition Celebrates 2011 Lucie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Photojournalism Recipient Bill Eppridge

A sign in rear window of car in Philadelphia, Mississippi:
©Bill Eppridge:  sign in rear window of car in Philadelphia, Mississippi, 1964


Monroe Gallery of Photography is honored to announce an extensive exhibition of more than 50 important photographs by Bill Eppridge, recipient of the 2011 Lucie Award for Achievement in Photojournalism. The exhibit opens with a reception on Friday, September 30, from 5 - 7 PM; and continues through November 20. 

The Lucie Awards is the annual gala ceremony honoring the greatest achievements in photography. The photography community from countries around the globe will pay tribute to Bill Eppridge, who will receive the 2011 Lucie Award for Achievement in Photojournalism at a special ceremony October 24 at Lincoln Center in New York.

Bill Eppridge is one of the most accomplished photojournalists of the Twentieth Century and has captured some of the most significant moments in American history: he has covered wars, political campaigns, heroin addiction, the arrival of the Beatles in the United States, Vietnam, Woodstock, the summer and winter Olympics, and perhaps the most dramatic moment of his career - the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles. Over the last 50 years, his work has appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic, Life, and Sports Illustrated; and has been exhibited in museums throughout the world.

 For the first time, this exhibition presents many of Eppridge's most important photo essays together, including:

 The Beatles: Bill Eppridge really didn't know who the Beatles were, but "One morning my boss said, 'Look, we've got a bunch of British musicians coming into town. They're called the Beatles.'" Eppridge was at John F. Kennedy airport on February 7, 1964 awaiting the arrival of The Beatles. He continued to photograph The Beatles that day, and over the next several days. He was invited to come up to their room at the Plaza Hotel and "stick with them." He was with them in Central Park and at the Ed Sullivan Show for both the rehearsal and the historic performance. He rode the train to Washington, D.C. with them for the concert at the Washington Coliseum, and photographed their Carnegie Hall performance on February 12, 1964.

©Bill Eppridge: Beatle Fans scramble for Jelly Beans, Washington Coliseum, 1964


"These were four very fine young gentlemen, and great fun to be around," Eppridge recalls. After he introduced himself to Ringo, who consulted with John, the group asked what he wanted them to do while being photographed for Life. "I'm not going to ask you to do a thing," was Eppridge's reply. "I just want to be there." An exhibit of Eppridge's Beatles photographs has been touring since 2001, and was seen by over 2 million people at the Smithsonian Museum.

Mississippi Burning: The James Cheney Murder: In late June of 1964, three civil rights workers in Mississippi went missing, kidnapped by Klu Klux Klansmen. One man was black, the other two were white. Their names were James Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Bill Eppridge arrived in Neshoba County shortly after the bodies of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were pulled from the muck of an earthen dam on August 4, 1964. There are no pictures of the crime, just the brutal aftermath and the devastating grief and sorrow brought upon a family.



©Bill Eppridge: Mrs. Chaney and young Ben, James Chaney funeral, Meridian, Mississippi, 1964

 In 1967, eighteen men faced federal charges of civil rights violations in the slayings of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman. Seven were convicted by an all-white jury, eight were acquitted and three were released after jurors deadlocked. The state of Mississippi prosecuted no one for 38 years. But in 2005—after six years of new reporting on the case by Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger—a sawmill operator named Edgar Ray Killen was indicted on charges of murder.

On June 21, 2005, exactly 41 years after the three men were killed, a racially integrated jury, without clear evidence of Killen's intent, found him guilty of manslaughter instead. Serving three consecutive 20-year terms, he is the only one of six living suspects to face state charges in the case.

Robert F. Kennedy: One of Eppridge’s most memorable and poignant essays was his coverage of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, first in 1966, and then again on the road with RFK during the 1968 presidential campaign. On June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, he was instructed by his boss to "stay as close as you can to Bobby". Kennedy assured Eppridge that he would be part of his immediate group, which meant that wherever the Democratic candidate went, Eppridge wouldn't be far behind. His photograph of the wounded Senator on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel kitchen seconds after he was shot has been described as a modern Pieta. Among the thoughts Eppridge had at that moment was a very loud and clear one: "You are not just a photojournalist, you're a historian."


"I believe our world is at a time right now in which it should be documented completely. If we can influence people with photographs, maybe we'll be able to maintain our planet." -- Bill Eppridge

 View the exhibition here.