Washington, D.C. in 1942 was not the easiest place in the world for a Negro to get along.
People in millenniums ahead will know what we were like in the 1930’s and the thing that, the important major things that shaped our history at that time. This is as important for historic reasons as any other.
I’ve been with Life now for seventeen years and I have written several articles for them and will be doing more writing and do at least two assignments a year besides my writing.
I’d become sort of involved in things that were happening to people. No matter what color they be, whether they be Indians, or Negroes, the poor white person or anyone who was I thought more or less getting a bad shake.
I was there less than a year before I was assigned to the Paris bureau. I spent two years there and, in fact, before I even went on the staff I was sent to Europe to do assignments which they wouldn’t normally do for a young photographer just starting out.
And I think that after nearly 85 years upon this planet that I have a right after working so hard at showing the desolation and the poverty, to show something beautiful for somebody as well.
So I went to Chicago in 1940, I think, ’41, and the photographs that I made there, aside from fashion, were things that I was trying to express in a social conscious way.
The man at Kodak told me the shots were very good and if I kept it up, they would give me an exhibition. Later, Kodak gave me my first exhibition.
I think maybe the rural influence in my life helped me in a sense, of knowing how to get close to people and talk to them and get my work done.
I bought my first camera in Seattle, Washington. Only paid about seven dollars and fifty cents for it.
But I was very disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to go overseas with that group, might not have gotten back but I wanted very much to go because there’s not much of a record of the exploits of the first Negro fighter group.
There’s another horizon out there, one more horizon that you have to make for yourself and let other people discover it, and someone else will take it further on, you know.
The photographer begins to feel big and bloated and so big he can’t walk through one of these doors because he gets a good byline; he gets notices all over the world and so forth; but they’re really – the important people are the people he photographs.
And now, I feel at 85, I really feel that I’m just ready to start.
At first I wasn’t sure that I had the talent, but I did know I had a fear of failure, and that fear compelled me to fight off anything that might abet it.