Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965


Artist Connection:

For photographer James Karales, being "a photojournalist in the 60's was heaven, utopia." As a Look Magazine photographer, he covered the Vietnam War and civil rights movement. His photograph, Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in March, 1965, was part of Look's award-winning photo essay, "Turning Point for the Church," which documented the role of churches in the civil rights movement. This photograph appeared on book covers and in the TV documentary series, __//Eyes On the Prize//__ . Art critics called it a pictorial anthem with "the weight of history and the grace of art." As African Americans struggled for equal rights, they often included references to their religion and the spiritual music of the Deep South. (See Martin Luther King's __"I Have a Dream" speech__.) This Karales photograph of marchers reminded historian __Taylor Branch__ of the Israelites marching out of the Red Sea as they fled Egyptian slavery.

James Karales was born in 1930 to Greek immigrants in Canton, Ohio. After earning a B.F.A. from Ohio University, he interned with noted photographer W. Eugene Smith. Under Smith's tutelage, Karales learned to tell stories in powerful documentary photographs. Photographs such as his, as well as television news reports, brought the nation face to face with contemporary violence and racism.

In the Selma-to-Montgomery photograph, Karales knew how to angle his camera in order to emphasize the importance of the event. The approaching line of dark figures, seen from below, is dramatically silhouetted against a light background. Contrasting dark clouds that move in from the opposite direction loom above them and suggest a possible threat. Not only did Karales snap his camera's shutter at just the right moment to catch the fleeting light, but he also manipulated the viewpoint so that only the marchers, flags, clouds, and a few weeds are visible. Nearby buildings, fences, traffic, cameramen, and national guardsmen aren't visible to the viewer and thus don't compete with the heroic isolation of his main subject.

Historical Connection

Literary Connection


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