1/27/2009 - Exhibit explores dark past - The UAB Kaleidoscope
Words and images come to mind when visitors walk into the Jennifer
Hunt Gallery, which is presently displaying the racially charged show,
Shocking. Horrific. Hard to withstand, or
even so much as think about. You try and tear your eyes away, but you
simply cannot, in spite of the terrible content of the photographs
Yet voyeurism has never seemed so acceptable as it
does once the viewer takes into account that the images are pure
history and that the racial issues of the South are so forcefully
rendered. The Civil Rights photography exhibit highlights the work of
famous award-winning photographer Charles Moore.
Alabama native, displays through his camera some of the shocking events
that took place during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.-led Civil Rights
movement in Alabama.
According to Jennifer Hunt, the gallery’s
owner, the pieces are a revealing look into the sometimes overly
unjustified violence toward demonstrators and protest marchers of the
“The pieces grab you and it isn’t easy to look away,” she
said. “I really enjoy these images for their outstanding photographic
quality, but the raw subject matter is so spot-on, that you really find
it hard to not get caught up in the emotions of the subjects.”
like “The Selma March” and “Selma (tear gas)” show, with enormous
visual flair, the large number of people who participated in the event,
but who also faced such turmoils as tear gas and police brutality on
March 7, 1965.
Though the tear gas piece might appear smaller and more difficult to
see because of the thick barrel of smoke cloaking the subjects, it’s
that ‘real’ quality that Moore’s image has that captures the emotions.
In the tear gas picture, there is an undeniable strength in the single
photo, but it should be noted that Moore took many of his show stopping
photos in sequence and as part of a larger series.
One of the
most stunning and arresting images has to be the one of Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. being forcefully pushed into a counter for booking,
after being arrested while loitering around the Montgomery courthouse.
recalls the events on Sept. 3 1958, as King was trying to enter a
crowded courtroom and was taken away by force. Moore says that King was
just standing near the door trying to enter the courtroom and when he
was asked to leave by police, King replied that no, he had his rights.
says he took pictures as the police arrested King and pushed him down
the street. When the group arrived at police headquarters, Moore says
he ran behind the sergeant as they booked King at the counter.
Moore’s other images at the gallery are gripping in their own right,
his piece of King against the counter seems almost to snarl with
frustration, as you see the calm beneath the stormy nature of the event
itself. While King remains firm in his stance, violence seems to swirl
around him, yet never quite gets the best of him. This contradiction in
terms gives the photograph an almost luminescent eeriness.
appears with one of his hands against the counter, while the other is
locked behind his back. He seems visually engaged, but it’s the gaze in
his eyes, clearly seen in Moore’s image, that makes King seem angry and
yet resigned. It is photography at its absolute best, and in my
opinion, currently the best photography display to see in Birmingham at
“Powerful Days,” the collection of documentary
photography by Charles Moore, is on display until Feb. 21 at the
Jennifer Hunt Gallery located on Highway 280 in the shopping center
across from Whole Foods.
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