by Gerald Boerner
Charles Moore will forever be remembered as the photographer who captured the Civil Rights Movement and the efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr., in his campaigns in the south. Many of his photographs are iconic and represent the best and worst of that era. His passing on March 11th of this year at the age of 79 will leave a major gap that will need to be filled by new photojournalists.
Moore had a way of being on-the-spot to capture those iconic photos of the era. We will miss him and his work, but we can revel in the body of work that he leaves behing. GLB
“The civil rights movement, owes Bull Connor as much as it owes Abraham Lincoln.”
— John Fitzgerald Kennedy
“This is probably the most profound civil rights movement of our generation, without q doubt.”
— Jackie Speier
“Anyone who said he wasn’t afraid during the civil rights movement was either a liar or without imagination. I was scared all the time. My hands didn’t shake but inside I was shaking.”
— James Farmer
“I think it’s long overdue. I’m glad to see that South Carolina and its link to the entire Civil Rights Movement has been noticed nationally and I think the stamps are a good first step,”
— Cecil Williams
“That’s what he was saying, the civil rights movement – judge me for my character, not how black my skin is, not how yellow my skin is, how short I am, how tall or fat or thin; It’s by my character.”
— Pam Grier
“Especially during the civil rights movement, (Taylor) was very, very strong about integrating the police department and the fire department and establishing the Owensboro Human Relations Commission,”
— Mike Walker
“I don’t think there are any pure Africans of the African Americans, but the African part of our history was pretty much taken away from us during slavery, so the 60s gave us a chance, because of the civil rights movement, to kind of re-examine and make some sort of formal connection to our African-ness.”
— Herbie Hancock
“In the South, prior to the Civil Rights movement and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, democracy was the rule. The majority of people were white, and the white majority had little or no respect for any rights which the black minority had relative to property, or even to their own lives. The majority – the mob [and occasionally the lynch mob] – ruled.”
— Neal Boortz
This posting is intended for the educational use of photographers and photography students and complies with the “educational fair use” provisions of copyright law. For readers who might wish to reuse some of these images should check out their compliance with copyright limitations that might apply to that use.
Charles Moore: Documenting the Civil Rights Movement
Moore was born in 1931 in Hackleburg, Alabama. He served three years in the U.S. Marines as a photographer and then attended the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, Calif. He next applied for a job as a photographer with the morning and afternoon newspapers The Montgomery Advertiser and The Montgomery Journal.
In 1958, while working in Montgomery, Alabama for the Montgomery Advertiser, he photographed an argument between Martin Luther King, Jr. and two policemen. His photographs were distributed nationally by the Associated Press, and published in Life.
The Times Daily of Florence, Ala., reported that Moore began covering the movement as the lone photographer at the scene when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in Montgomery in 1958. In the years that followed, the Alabama native took some of the most enduring shots of the movement.
From this start, Moore traveled throughout the South documenting the Civil Rights Movement. His most famous photograph, Birmingham, depicts demonstrators being attacked by firemen wielding high-pressure hoses. U.S. Senator Jacob Javits, said that Moore’s pictures "helped to spur passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
Moore went on to cover the Vietnam War and many other trouble spots. He then moved on to nature, fashion and travel photography, in addition to corporate work. He also photographed conflicts in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Haiti.
In 1991, a collection of his photographs along with his biography was published: "Powerful Days: The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore."
Moore died at age 79, on March 11, 2010, in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Web Site Backgrounder
Moore’s web site, cited below, provides a excellent summary of his life and work. You can view a sampling of his works on his web site by clicking on the link below:
Highlights of his life are included here.
Charles Moore didn’t plan to photograph the civil rights movement. In September, 1958, he was a 27-year-old photographer for the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser. When an argument broke out between the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and two policemen, Moore was the only photographer on the scene. His striking pictures of Dr. King’s arrest were distributed nationwide by the Associated Press, and one was published in Life magazine. A new career had begun.
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. According to former U.S. Senator Jacob Javits, Moore’s pictures "helped to spur passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
Some of the major 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 march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama (1965). Pictures from each of these events are included on this site.
Moore also photographed the civil war in the Dominican Republic, political violence in Venezuela and Haiti, and the Vietnam conflict. His editorial and travel photography has appeared in major magazines in the United States, Europe, Japan, and South America. Moore has received many awards for corporate/industrial photography, as well as travel and calendar work. He is well-known for location photography of celebrities, including actors, dancers, and musicians.
In 1989, Charles Moore received the first Kodak Crystal Eagle Award for Impact in Photojournalism. With Kodak’s support, Moore has lectured and presented his work at universities and photography workshops around the country. His work has been exhibited at many museums and other institutions. Moore is represented by the New York photo agency Black Star; his art prints are sold through the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York City. All of Moore’s black-and-white photographs are made on 35-mm Kodak Tri-X Pan film.
The accompanying photos, and many more, appear in Powerful Days, The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore (New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1991). A new edition of The Motherlode, Moore’s book about California’s gold-rush country, will be published by Chronicle Books this Spring. Charles Moore now lives in Shelburne Falls, Mass.
A Tribute to Charles Moore
Allan Weitz, in his blog on B&H Insights, provided the following tribute to Moore and his work. (Please check out the full article at the citation within the References section.)
On March 16th, 2010, Charles Moore, one of the giants of photojournalism’s golden age, passed away at the age of 79. Moore, who earned his stripes in the battlefield of the 1960’s civil rights movement, has been long-recognized as the photographer whose startling, ‘you-are-there’ imagery jumped off the pages of Life magazine and influenced not only public opinion, but the thoughts and opinion of the champion of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, President Johnson.
The son of a Southern preacher, Moore served as a US Marines photographer during WWII, followed by several stints as a newspaper photographer. His big break came when, as a freelance journalist represented by the Black Star photo agency, he began documenting the civil rights movement at a time when southern Blacks, with growing support from others around the country began speaking out against a social system that was clearly stacked unfairly – and often brutally – against them.
While Moore was hardly alone in documenting the many marches and demonstrations taking place in cities and towns across the South, it was Moore’s photographs that grabbed the reader and placed them center stage in the events. Moore preferred using shorter focal-length lenses, which forced him to shoot from within the field of action rather than observing things from a safer distance. In fact, it wasn’t unusual to spot Moore in photographs taken by other photographers covering the same events. As a result he was also punched, kicked, and arrested more often than fellow-shooters, but at the end of the day its Moore’s iconic photographs that remain burned into our collective memories of those tumultuous times.
When reflecting back on Moore’s heyday, it’s also worth noting how the art, craft, and discipline of photography have changed. Today, anyone with a cell phone can qualify as a ‘journalist’, and even those who invest in a ‘real’ camera have the luxury of auto this, auto that, and the ability to capture stills with an extraordinary level of speed and ease. Working with hand meters and the occasional motor-drive (true beasts by today’s standards), Moore and his contemporaries had to set exposures, frame, focus, and shoot images without benefit of automation, and often one frame at a time. And with rare exception, there aren’t many shooters out there today capable of capturing monumental moments in time with the same perception and skill as Charles Moore.
Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Charles Moore…
Web Sites and Blogs:
The New York Times: Charles Moore, Rights-Era Photographer, Dies at 79…
B&H Insights: Charles Moore Remembered…
Kodak: Charles Moore Biography…
Kodak: Charles Moore Civil Rights Photos…
Think Exist: Civil Rights Movement…