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MF GALAXY

MF GALAXY is a weekly podcast powered by four mighty engines: * Writers on writing: the craft and the business * Pop culture including TV, movies, graphic novels, and more * Progressive politics, activism, and social enterprise * Africentric change-makers, histories, cultures, art, and more! Mixing brand-new interviews with classic conversations (from my archive of 23 years in broadcasting) with famous and dynamic figures in the arts, Hollywood, and politics, MF GALAXY will take you to places you've never been before, and deliver fresh insights on the places you've been.
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Now displaying: Category: photographer - africentric - progressive politics
Feb 29, 2016

Born in East Harlem in 1936 to Puerto Rican and Italian parents, Benedict Fernandez became one of the most celebrated photographers in the United States, in large measure through his documenting some of the most powerful images of the human rights struggle of 1960s and 70s United States, and especially from visually documenting the final year of the life of Martin Luther King.

Fernandez has earned numerous prestigious awards for his work, including a Fellowship of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in China, a US National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Various museums around the world house his work in their permanent collections, including the Smithsonian, the US National Portrait Gallery, the Schomburg Center, the University of Tokyo, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Fernandez has published several books of photographs, including IN OPPOSITION: Images of American Dissent in the Sixties, and I AM A MAN.

During African History Month in 2001, Fernandez came to give a lecture during an exhibition of his work at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton. He spoke with me afterward to discuss:

  • Should photographers ever put down the camera and get involved in what they’re shooting?
  • His upbringing in the turf wars of Spanish Harlem
  • How dyslexia led to his career in photography
  • Why, despite being a Guggenheim Fellow, he found himself disinvited to a panel on addiction in the inner city
  • How Fidel Castro rescued him from realtor racial profiling, otherwise known as red-lining
  • The meaning of what Fernandez calls “mental poverty”
  • How he became Martin Luther King’s official photographer during King’s final year, and what King was like in person, including what he ate and why he bragged about his polyester suit, and
  • The meaning of having photographed one of the most iconic figures in human rights history, and his resistance to the marketing of King’s image

 

Along the way, Fernandez cited two former King associates: Andrew Young, later mayor of Atlanta and American ambassador to the United Nations, and Julian Bond, later a Georgia State Assemblyman and Chair of the NAACP.

benedictjfernandez.com

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