Photo by @williamalbertallard // Crenshaw, Mississippi, 1968
In 1968 I was assigned to photograph the “Poor Peoples March” that was to start in the Deep South and end up in Washington DC. A reporter and I went to a gathering of African Americans in the area of Crenshaw, Mississippi who were supposed to leave for Washington in a day or two. The people were crowded together under a huge canvas tent where we met the Irbys, a nice family who agreed to let us follow them back to their home, an aged wooded tenant house sitting in the midst of vast cotton fields. But before we left the tent, I made a few portraits of some of the family, but mostly of Hank, who was 17 at the time. The details in the portrait are so important probably because they are really imperfections, something one might change or correct if one we’re going to do a serious portrait session. Little details like the part of an under shirt that shows. How the top button of his shirt is buttoned tight, the second button is loose. And there are small flecks of blue paint on his shirt that echo the color of his sweater. His well worn cap is tilted just so. The wall of the tent behind him provides background color that blends so well with his dark eyes, his brown skin. His gaze at me is just slightly apprehensive but accepting. Although unstudied, it’s probably as honest and direct a portrait as I’ve ever made.
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