Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Its been several weeks since a giant in the world of photography passed. Memphis photographer Ernest Withers was best known for his documentation of the civil rights movement, but this was simply part of documenting the daily live of his fellow African-Americans in Memphis, at work, play, social events and more. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal's obituary says it simply Photographer with a great heart had 'burning desire to shoot pictures'. In comments to the obituary, Photographer Jef Jaisun quotes Dick Waterman on Withers, "No amount of tribute could possibly reach the appreciation that is due to this modest man."
Fortunately several excellent books of his made his marvelous work available. The Memphis Blues Again: Six Decades of Memphis Music Photographs contains many remarkable images of people like Howling Wolf, Esther Phillips, and B.B. King. Negro League Baseball presents images of such greats as Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and numerous others. These are books the continue to give me great pleasure. Negro League Baseball is I believe the only book currently in print.
There was a brief mention of Withers' death October 30 on Mike Johnston's blog The Online Photographer along with some other photo news items. The comments about Mr. Withers center on the photo of him with several cameras. Oddly no one commented on Withers' photography. Given Mike Johnston's interest in music (especially jazz), he could have mentioned this aspect of Mr. Withers body of work, especially the marvelous The Memphis Blues Again.
For a sampling of his work check out the website of his exclusive agent PanOpticon Gallery.