Last Friday (on March 31, 2017), I was able to photograph Frederick Douglas (F.D.) Reese in my studio at The Selma Portrait Project. Dr. Reese is a retired minister and teacher and former principal of Selma High School. He is civil rights activist and was a member of the Courageous Eight. As leader of the Selma Teacher's Association and member of Dallas County Voters League, he helped to shape history for Selma and ultimately for the country.
As a little background, I made sure to set a few days aside to prepare for my upcoming lecture, classroom demonstration and gallery reception in Macon, Georgia on the Wesleyan College campus. My intention was to finish a large-scale fabric piece that had been put aside while I worked on finalizing my images and getting the audio collage to sound just the way I had imagined. I am so glad that I kept that time free with no portraits booked because at the last moment, I had the opportunity to photograph Darrio Melton, the mayor of Selma and F.D. Reese (and include them in my project). It was something I could never have planned for, but am so glad that I was ready and able with plates prepared and good (tested and true) chemistry on hand. A big thank you to great longtime and new friends for helping make those two portraits happen.
Dr. Reese came to the studio with his lovely wife and daughter. We chatted for a bit and then I was able to capture his portrait. I took two images, with the second being the one that was the best in terms of showcasing his gentle nature and immense impact on history.
You can see his image washing here in the water bath. It is now on display in the McCrary Gallery housed in the Murphy Art Building on the Wesleyan College campus until April 27th.
He carefully answered each question I asked of him and was extremely generous with his time. I learned about the teachers that influenced his life, his feelings on being a teacher and how he felt being someone who was able to influence others along the way. I recorded our conversation as I have with each person I've photographed, and his words can be heard as part of the show at Wesleyan.
I have been thinking a lot about change and what that means. I've always thought that change can be hard to bring about in many places and that it takes many people to really make a true change. I've realized being back in Selma for the last three months, that it really only takes one person to exact change.
One person may need many others to join in the cause, but if it weren't for that one particular person to decide that a change needs to be made, change might never take place or may take much, much longer to happen. It also takes someone with enough courage to voice that change needs to happen.
I see so many people in Selma who are working towards making a change in Selma. Photographing Dr. Reese allowed me to talk to a person who was able to be an integral part of making change happen in a very big way.