Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bedrooms of the Fallen: Honoring the Casualties of War


Over 5,000 men and women have died serving the United States in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This is a project about who they were - sons, daughters, sisters, brothers - and the bedrooms which they once called their own.

About This Project

These bedrooms once belonged to men and women who died fighting in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These fallen men and women were blown up by IEDs, RPGs, hand grenades and suicide bombers. They were shot down in ambushes and by snipers. They died in helicopters, in humvees, and in tanks. It all took place thousands of miles away from home, and the country they fought to defend.

The purpose of this project is to honor these fallen – not simply as soldiers, marines, airmen and seamen, but as sons, daughters, sisters and brothers – and to remind us that before they fought, they lived, and they slept, just like us, at home.

Bedrooms of the Fallen was conceived in 2007 as a way to memorialize soldiers and marines who died in Iraq. It was expanded to include casualties from Afghanistan in 2009. Order the book here.

Related: Time LightBox
Bedrooms of the Fallen: Honoring the Casualties of War

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Look back: 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education

Brown Sisters Walk to School, Topeka, Kansas, 1953. Photograph by Carl Iwasaki


It has been 60 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education outlawed school segregation in America. The decision shook the country to its core, defying the fundamentals of the country’s most ardent and longstanding manifestations of racism – the legal, physical separation of the races.

 Portrait of African American students for whom the Board of Education case was brought (Left to right)- Vicki Henderson, Donald Henderson, Linda Brown, James Emanuel, Lucinda Todd and Lena Carper. Topeka, Kansas, 1953.
Portrait of African American students for whom the Board of Education case was brought (Left to right)- Vicki Henderson, Donald Henderson, Linda Brown, James Emanuel, Lucinda Todd and Lena Carper. Topeka, Kansas, 1953. Photo by Carl Iwasaki/Time & Life/Getty   Click for slide show

The 1954 decision ruling that racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment (guaranteeing equal protection), as well as the Fifth Amendment (guaranteeing due process), forced the country – and the court, for that matter – to reckon with the unfulfilled Constitutional rights of countless African Americans who’d for generations been denied the most basic rights.

But many cities and school districts fought compliance of the law. And a year later, in 1955, the Supreme Court ordered that districts desegregate with “all deliberate speed.” While some schools integrated with varying degrees of success, the decision sparked a mass exodus of white students from desegregated public schools.

“If we can organize the Southern States for massive resistance to this order I think that, in time, the rest of the country will realize that racial integration is not going to be accepted in the South,” former Sen. Harry Flood Byrd of Virginia, said in 1954. He called the decision “the most serious blow that has yet been struck against the rights of the states in a matter vitally affecting their authority and welfare.”

In many cases, rather than integrate, state school officials simply shutdown public schools. In one case, in 1959, officials in Prince Edward County Virginia closed the school system, which remained closed for the next five years.

In another act of resistance, white parents began removing their children from the public school system all together. Because Brown v. Board only applied to public schools, white parents across the country began to form what came to be known as “Segregation Academies,” all-white private schools that skirted the Supreme Court’s mandates. The so-called “Seg Academies” flourished throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. And even into the late 1970s and 1980s, when districts began bussing programs to diversify stubbornly segregated public schools, many whites erected barricades, hurled insults and in some cases resorted to petty violence.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Book of the photographs of Guy Gillette captures decades of ranch life in small-town East Texas

Guy Gillette

A new book of the photographs of Guy Gillette captures decades of ranch life in small-town East Texas.

Photos from <i>A Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette</i>, University of Oklahoma Press.
Photos from A Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette, University of Oklahoma Press.

Guy Gillette liked to tell a good story, whether it was on stage in his younger days as an actor or behind the camera during his long career as a famed photojournalist. By the time Gillette died last August at age 90, his images had appeared in high-profile magazines, books, and exhibitions. He had covered the Korean War, the civil rights movement, and Vietnam War protests. And he had photographed countless celebrities, including Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn, Queen Elizabeth II, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

But it was in ordinary country living in rural Houston County, Texas, that Gillette found some of the best stories through his viewfinder. Decades of photographs he took there dating from the 1940s are the subject of the new book A Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette.

Arnolds, Cafe, Lovelady, Texas, 1956
Arnolds, Cafe, Lovelady, Texas, 1956

Gillette came to know the Piney Woods of Southeast Texas by way of New York. Born in Minneapolis, he initially wanted to become an actor and moved to New York to pursue the stage. While a student at the Michael Chekhov Acting Studio, he got work as a busboy at a vegetarian diner, where he met Doris Porter, an aspiring fashion designer from Texas supporting herself waiting tables. The two fell in love, married, and soon began a long series of summer trips from their home in New York to Doris’ family ranch in Houston County.

Gillette had taken up photography as a hobby, and he found the Porter Place — the ranch Doris’ father, Hoyt Porter, had assembled as a young man — and the neighboring small towns of Crockett and Lovelady great ground for practicing the kind of unassuming picture-taking that would become the hallmark of his work. Seeing those early images, a friend in New York encouraged Gillette to follow photography.
“In a good photograph, something happens,” Gillette once said, and in Houston County, there was always something happening to train his lens on. On Saturdays, folks turned out to walk around town. There were domino games at the garage. Church homecomings and Bible school. Boot shining and porch conversations. Potlucks and hymn sings. And there was all that went with ranch work and the schooling of Gillette’s two young sons — Guy Porter and Pipp (they would grow up to make award-winning cowboy music as the Gillette Brothers) — in working cattle and riding horses. There were quiet times of cooking breakfast on the range and of cooling off at the water hole. And every now and then there was an emergency, like a tense trip to the vet when a favorite cow dog got its leg broken.
Edward Steichen, who was reportedly moved to tears by an image of a young Guy Jr. looking into the eyes of his injured dog on the vet’s table, chose two of Gillette’s images for the famous Family of Man exhibition. But if some saw art in his photographs, Gillette saw simple, true stories. “Though photography is often called art,” he said, “I have wanted to be artless: to be a documentarian, not an artist.”

Asked to describe what photography meant to him, Gillette struggled for a pithy explanation. If he had a philosophy, he held with the French photographer Brassa├»: “I do not look for exceptional subjects. I avoid them,” Gillette said. “I think it is daily life that is the great event, the true reality.”
Telling the simple truth of those stories occupied Gillette his entire life. “It is why I have enjoyed watching the people of Houston County, seeing them through a camera’s viewfinder.”

A Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013) by Andy Wilkinson is available at