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“I do regard photography as an extremely difficult act. I believe the achievement of a work that is evocative and mysterious and at the same time realistic is a great one, and a rare one, and perhaps sometimes almost an accident.” Walker Evans

Walker Evans is best known for his photographs documenting the depression.  Some thought of his work as political.  He did not.  He said that he just photographed everything that attracted him at the time: “I suppose I was interested in calling attention to something, and even shocking people. But I don’t think I had the purpose of improving the world. I like saying what’s what.” You can explore a virtual tour of a current Walker Evans exhibit here or learn more at the Museum of Modern Art where they celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first one-person photography exhibit. 

The New York Times recently noted that the critical arbiters at the galleries and museums of the art world today seem to favor pictures that are constructed in studios, lifted off computer screens and digitally manipulated or assembled from prior photos – anything other than photographs that are shot outside the photographers door. However, a new exhibit at The International Center of Photography references the revitalization of the American documentary tradition noting that "this exhibition presents photography attuned to this consciousness, photography from the world, from life as it is—in all its complicated wonder—in the twenty-first-century United States.”  The book related to exhibit can be found here.
Whether photographs are documentary or journalistic or simply photographs of everyday life and the reality around us, one of photography’s great strengths is to deliver to us the chance to look at and reflect upon the brilliant tangle of reality and the world we are a part of.
As the Financial Times recently noted, photography has had a remarkable rise to the center of the art world.  Today, photography brings us “history and geography, war and peace, art and documentary” – a broad range and quality that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago.  Photography has carved a role that exceeds its basic documentary function and become the messenger of what is contemporary life.
That leaves it to people like you to be curious and explore the images we see.  Seek out the photographs and images that speak to you, in whatever way and sentiment you decide. It’s why people like me make images for you to ponder.

The world matters — this is the core of photography, engaging with life.” Paul Graham, Photographer

Photos of reality today that look back 
ast week, I had the honor and pleasure to participate in a corporate diversity initiative by taking them on a photo tour of several untold or little understood stories in African American history. I like to think of these as pictures of everyday places that engage us to think about the past in order to learn more.

As a little background, the photos for the presentation (above and below) were selected by the Company from my #Scarredplacesphotoseries on Instagram. I have begun to add this project to website. The project began as I explored a story I thought I knew about – but when I was actually out shooting photos I ended up learning more and more and more. It was more complex and uglier than I had ever imagined or understood.   

That made we realize that there are many historical stories that we either do not know about or do not understand fully. That lack of knowledge and understanding can often mean that the histories and stories that form our friends’ and colleagues’ understanding of the America they know can be very different than the America we believe we know.

That bridge is one we can all cross by opening our eyes.  Photographs of reality can bring those historical stories back to life in new ways that we can learn from.

Each photo in the presentation (above) had a little two minute story…with a few surprises along the way.  Ill share one with you below.

Binhammer Photographs Website

The Lorraine Hotel
and then Motel

Originally this was a whites-only hotel in a very segregated Memphis, Tennessee.  In 1945, Walter and Loree Bailey bought it and renamed it the Lorraine Hotel (after his wife Loree and the popular jazz song, “Sweet Lorraine”). 

They would add a kitchen and a two floor extension at the back with about 39 more rooms, in addition to drive-up parking, large front windows, and a swimming pool. The Lorraine’s new design reflected the space age-inspired googie style (geometric shapes and bright colors) that was popular in California in the fifties and sixties and was also typical of motels at the time. The Lorraine Motel reflected the monumental changes experienced by blacks in postwar America. It is also where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.  It then fell into disrepair.  It was rescued and became the National Civil Rights Museum -- one of the most moving museums I have ever been through.
The restaurant was added because in the era of segregation, Black travelers couldn’t just go eat anywhere. The Lorraine was a safe haven for Black travelers and the motel was listed in “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” By the 1960s the Lorraine was also a place for business meetings and weddings, as well as events for the Black community.  Its' guestbook was a veritable who’s who of the black community in the forties, fifties, and sixties. 

It was also a vibrant place for music. While music legends like Cab Calloway and Count Basie stayed here, many of the musicians associated with Stax Records, the legendary soul and R&B label, stayed and hung out here when they were in Memphis for studio sessions. The Stax Studio (also worth a visit if you are in Memphis) was just a few blocks away from the Lorraine Motel, which became a creative oasis of sorts. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Eddie Floyd are just a few who stayed here.  Wilson Pickett’s “The Midnight Hour” and Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” were composed at the Lorraine Motel.
Isaac Hayes reminisced, “We’d go down to the Lorraine Motel and we’d lay by the pool and Mrs. Bailey would bring us fried chicken and we’d eat ice cream. We’d just frolic until the sun goes down and [then] we’d go back to work” at Stax Records.
Mrs Bailey suffered a stroke at the sound of the shots being fired at Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died. Mr Bailey continued to run the motel but never rented out room 306 again.  By the 1980s Mr. Bailey declared bankruptcy.
This place was a safe haven, housed joy, made music and heroes.  It's also a place of deep pain.  If you get a chance visit the museum. 

I'm hoping some of you have been able to get the vaccine and that the various COVID restrictions let up soon. 
Please stay safe and keep well.   
For me, personally, Im itching to the hit road for both Roadside America and Scarred Places work, although I am doing a little of both around here.  

PS: If you enjoy the newsletter, please pass it on to a friend and encourage them to subscribe.  You can also find past monthly newsletters here and people can subscribe at the link.
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5807 Harbour Hill Place, Midlothian VA, 23112
Copyright © 2018 Binhammer Photographs, All rights reserved.

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Binhammer Photographs · 5807 Harbour Hill Pl · Midlothian, VA 23112-2120 · USA

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