Mississippi 1959

Photo Image Gallery

Mississippi 1959
From Harvey Richards’ Mississippi, 1959, Image Gallery

Mississippi 1959 Photo Gallery

The photos in this image gallery are from Mississippi 1959 taken during Harvey Richards‘ impromptu tour of Mississippi. It was one of the first photographic journeys he made and it contains his basic approach to photography.

“Everything that you heard on television or on newsreels was terribly warped and twisted…. There was an enormous difference between the world I had seen with my eyes prior to the fifties and the world that I saw in the media. And…prior to my going to the deep south, Martin Luther King might get five seconds, six seconds, seven seconds on an evening news broadcast. The only thing you would get about the conditions of black people in the south would be a few words from the traditional talking head. You never, nobody took cameras into the homes, into the work places, into the fields in areas like that. That is the principal reason why I wanted to go there with a camera. Not to try to do something that was better than somebody else was doing.”  Harvey Richards, from Primary Source Documentaries.

First and foremost, he photographed ordinary people in candid photos of real life. He photographed what was not being photographed subjects left out of the media: devastated forests, poisoned crops, those on the bottom rung of the ladder, the worker, the dispossessed, the poor, and especially children. He did not pursue the famous or the rich unless they came into the scenes he frequented.  Second, he held the camera still, framed the shots, and mastered exposure and lighting to produce vibrant, lasting photographs that tell their own stories.  When he could, he offered his photography to causes and organizations that common people embraced, or that he wished they would embrace.  He focused on movements for change, worker organizing, civil rights, peace, and the environment. He photographed work, mechanization, tools and nature, whether it be a short handled hoe in agriculture or giant log handling equipment in forestry, and always with an eye to the common man and woman who needed some good press.   

About Harvey Richards Mississippi 1959 Photography

As an activist photographer, Harvey Richards shot 1960’s civil rights images in California and Mississippi.

In 1963 and again in the spring of 1964, Harvey Richards travelled into rural Mississippi at the invitation of Amzie Moore, a Mississippi NAACP movement leader, to help publicize voter registration activities. Three films resulted: We’ll Never Turn BackFreedom Bound, and Dream Deferred. The making of these films is the subject the essay “Primary Source Documentaries: The Making of We’ll Never Turn Back (1963) and Dream Deferred (1964)” by Paul Richards, Ph.D. available on this web site.

Harvey Richards in Mississippi 1959

Harvey Richards photography in Mississippi started in 1959 when he drove through the state at a time when he was dodging a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunters.  He took his Leica 35 mm camera with him, photographing along the way, presented in the gallery of color images of African American people and homes in the state.

He returned to Mississippi four years later in 1963, and then again in 1964, at the invitation of Amzie Moore to make two films, We’ll Never Turn BackDream Deferred, about the voter registration drives in Mississippi. He did very little still photography during these trips.  The photos that came back with him were of the leaders of the voter registration drives, people like Amzie Moore, E.W. Steptoe, Bob Moses, Julian Bond, Hollis Watkins, Mable Lee Roosevelt and others.

Harvey Richards’ documentaries provided support to civil right activists during the 1960’s in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the South. He filmed the historic march down Market Street (Freedom March) in San Francisco in 1963 to support the freedom movement in Birmingham, Alabama just before the church bombing that killed four children.


Buy or license these photos.

MEDIA – For photos & interviews: Paul Richards (510) 967 5577; paulrichards@estuarypress.com

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