Tuesday, March 16, 2010



Charles Moore depicted Civil Rights Battles of the 1960s during Martin Luther King's era. In the picture below, King is manhandled by Alabama police as a common criminal while in the picture above, anti-riot police use dogs to control protesters. The photographs are still shocking to this day.


In one, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — America’s foremost advocate of nonviolent social change — is manhandled like a common thug in a Montgomery, Ala., police station. In another, civil rights demonstrators are pummeled by high-pressure water houses turned on them by the Birmingham, Ala., fire department. In the third, the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina is driving to a rally with his Klan robe hanging over the back seat as if it were a suit jacket.

They are all by Charles Moore, who worked hard to be in the wrong place at the right time as the civil-rights battle unfolded in the South in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Word of his death last week at the age of 79 spread widely Monday among photojournalists. “His photographs have been credited by many for changing the mood of the nation regarding civil rights and helping to speed up passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Donald Winslow wrote in an obituary for the National Press Photographers Association. “Moore’s photograph of King’s arrest moved on The Associated Press wire and was picked up by Life magazine, transforming what had been a regional story into a national debate,” Mr. Winslow added.

Bill Eppridge, a Life magazine alumnus, wrote what amounted to an elegaic poem on Sunday:

So sad.
Many of us knew him very well.
A true Southern Gentleman.
A fine Journalist.
Thoughtful, incisive, compassionate,
An Artist.
His photographs were collected in “Powerful Days: The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore.” He was represented by Black Star.

Though his record of that tumultuous era is well known, it may surprise some of his admirers to learn how close that archive was to having been lost. John Trotter shared the story on Monday.

“I remember photographing him when he was living up in Columbia, Calif., in the early ’90s and he pointed to a framed front page of The Modesto Bee on the wall,” Mr. Trotter said. “On it was a very large photograph of a helicopter dropping fire retardant on a hillside. On top of the hill was his house. And he told me that he’d loaded all the civil-rights film and prints he could into a car and was ready to leave before the firefighters stopped the fire.”

“He was a brave photographer, but such an unassuming gentleman of the old school,” Mr. Trotter said. “And he made some of the incredible events he saw into images that will be iconic as long as this nation exists.”

Parting Glance, American scenes, Bill Eppridge, Black Star, Charles Moore, David W. Dunlap, Donald Winslow, John Trotter, Life magazine, National Press Photographers Association, Parting Glance, Social documentary and commentary

1. March 15, 2010
7:01 pm

I am so glad that he was brave enough to take the photos that he did. He helped to shed light on one of the most serious chapters on this nation history and compel people to notice. Rest well Mr. Moore.
— Nelceina Jacobs

2. March 15, 2010
7:02 pm

In the mid 90s I designed a poster for a scholarly civil rights eductational conference at Harvard University. For it I licensed one of Charles Moore’s photographs of the early 1960s civil rights period and called him to say how pleased I was to have ‘collaborated’ with him. He was extremely generous, and we talked quite a while about those times. I sent him the poster. He signed one and very kindly returned it to me. It was a great pleasure to have known this very special photographer.
— Stephen Goldstein

3. March 15, 2010
8:23 pm

While remembered for his Civil Rights coverage, I recall Howard Chapnick, then owner of Black Star telling me of Charle’s skill with multiple strobe lighting, a master of a skill before our modern equipment was developed.

As a fellow Black Star photographer living in another part of the country, I only had the pleasure of personally meeting him in the Black Star office in New York one time, in the 1970’s.

He was a fine gentleman and one I’ve always held in great respect.

Charles and Black Star photographer Flip Shulke will long be remembered for their civil rights coverage.
Doug Wilson
— Doug Wilson

4. March 15, 2010
8:25 pm

Gorgeous, disturbing photographs.
"Common thugs” shouldn’t be manhandled, either.
— Curiosa

5. March 16, 2010
12:03 am

Thank you, Mr. Moore, for being at the “wrong place” at the right time. And for seeing what you saw —- to help us see. Perhaps we will make it right yet.
Jodie Nolan

6. March 16, 2010
12:09 am
I don’t really remember meeting Charles Moore but I felt the wonderful weight of his work. It helped change the direction of American history at the right time. I once worked on a HBO documentary in the early part of the 1990’s about the civil rights movement in Alabama. Certain moments were recreated to be mixed in with actual footage of what had happened. It was as if the decisive moments that Charles Moore and his fellow photographers captured in those terrible days were brought to life once more. Mr. Moore lived a life where he managed to deliver photographs that held great meaning and at the end of the day — accomplished something of great worth. My best regards go to him and to his family. Eli Reed
— Eli Reed

7. March 16, 2010
12:30 am

He shot with film. I wonder what images he could have shot with digital. A brave man who made a difference
— Strider

8. March 16, 2010
12:35 am
I first had the privilege of meeting Charles Moore when he gave a presentation to my high school class. This was the first of many meetings that culminated in my making (along with my father) a documentary about Mr. Moore.

Moore’s presentation was a result of a program set up by Bill Strickland, a social entrepreneur (Bill Strickland Makes Change With a Slide Show), to bring artists into under resourced inner-city schools in Pittsburgh. I realized the potential for making a film when normally disruptive and disengaged students were captivated by Moore’s slide-show presentation and stayed after class to ask him questions.

Above all else, I was inspired by Moore’ convictions. I see Moore as someone for whom complacency was not an option. He saw something he thought was wrong and was moved to action, in his words, “I fought with my camera.” Through his work, Moore was an agent for social change.

After the film’s completion, I submitted it to numerous film festivals. The most meaningful for me was the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. In the same historic location where 50 years earlier firefighters had turned their hoses on protesters, the film won Best Short Documentary and Moore who was in attendance received a standing ovation.
Charles Moore: I Fight With My Camera
— Daniel Love

9. March 16, 2010
2:04 am

He memorialized that time in history,he is a legend and should be repected and honored ,remembered
— Ted L

10. March 16, 2010
2:42 am

Not too long ago, I saw a bio on PBS of Mr. Moore. He was a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement, i learned from that. And his images represent a very powerful story of America’s advance toward true democracy.

I had an epiphany in Memphis a few years ago when I visited the Civil RIghts Museum at the motel where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was killed, and after getting back to my hotel that night and calling up the Washington Post obit online, discovered that at that museum I’d just seen the fire-bombed Selma Freedom Riders’ bus to which Bobby Kennedy had sent my Uncle Jack Wolf as the lead investigator of a Justice Department team. I will never forget how surprised and proud I was. Here are some images of that museum.
-The Freedom Riders

— Peter Wolf