Photography: Capturing the Struggle
Photos documenting the Civil Rights Movement retain their visual — and moral — impact
Photographs can transport you into, and out of, time. “Rev. King in Boston” funnels you straight back to the mid-’60s and everything we now associate with the face and gestures of Martin Luther King Jr.: the struggle for racial equality, nonviolent resistance, a reaching toward something. “Waiting” — showing African-Americans registering to vote in Mississippi in 1964 — is equally a document of that time, but there’s something compellingly timeless about the look of determination on the face of the man in the white hat.
Both photos, as well as the action shot of basketball great Bill Russell, were taken by prolific photojournalist Ted Polumbaum. A selection of his work, some derived from Time magazine assignments to cover civil-rights events in 1964 and 1968 and augmented with other work, will be shown in the Summerlin Library, under the title Lives on the Line: Civil Rights Images, beginning January 17. It was curated by his daughter, Judy Polumbaum, a Las Vegan.
On February 7 there will be a reception for the exhibit, along with a panel discussion titled “Lives on the Line: The Civil Rights Legacy,” featuring a law professor, minister, and local activists talking about the movement’s past, present, and future.
Ted Polumbaum, who died in 2001, had an interesting history of his own. According to Judy Polumbaum’s account, in the book Juxtapositions: Images from the Newseum Ted Polumbaum Photo Collection, his career in written journalism faltered when he defied the infamous House Committee on Un-American Activities and its demand that he name suspected communists in the news business. As writing jobs dried up, Polumbaum turned his photography hobby into a new freelance career, eventually snapping photographs around the world. His archive at the Newseum, in Washington, D.C., runs to some 250,000 images.
Lives on the line: Civil rights images January 17-March 25, reception and panel talk February 7, 6p, Summerlin Library, lvccld.org