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Ernest C. Withers Ernest C. Withers, one of the most important African American photographers of the late 20th Century, passed away this past October in his hometown of Memphis, TN.
Withers was a photojournalist who documented the Civil Rights Movement in the South during the 1950ís and 60ís, as well as the Memphis Beale Street Blues Scene, Black Memphis society, and the twilight years of Negro League Baseball. His work was published widely in the African American newspapers and magazines, and more recently appeared in Time, The New York Times, and Newsweek.
Withers worked with a variety of gear, from 4x5 press cameras to twin lens reflex cameras to 35mm cameras. His images are gritty and direct. He liked to say that "pictures tell the story" and consequently a book and traveling exhibition of his work were titled after that phrase.
On December 30, 2007, Withers was featured in The New York Times Magazine 14th annual "Lives They Lived" issue that pays tribute to the yearís notable deaths. The article can be found
I first met Ernest Withers in early 1992 when I was asked to produce the prints for his first major exhibition entitled, Let Us March On that opened at the Massachusetts College of Art later that year. I was astonished to learn that although he had shot more than a million frames during his career, Withers did not maintain an inventory of signed prints of his work. He told me: "When I made a print, I delivered it to my client and that was the last time I saw it."
Upon seeing Withersí work, I recognized its historic and artistic significance and I entered into a lasting partnership and friendship with him. From 1995 to 2007, Panopticon Gallery produced and sold a broad cross section of prints from about three hundred and fifty of Withersí negatives. What remains of this inventory is a limited collection of original signed prints.
Tony Decaneas (February 2008)