Photo portfolio a powerful reminder

Published 4:42 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

A couple of weeks ago The New Yorker published a series of photographs under its portfolio heading. Called “The Promise,” this section of 20 or more pages has special meaning to Selma and the rest of the state.

The photographs are part of a portfolio by Platon, a photographer living in New York. Born in London in 1968, but raised in Greece by his English mother and Greek father until he was 7, and his father returned to London.

In 1998 he left London after working for George, the magazine founded by the late John F. Kennedy Jr. He kept up with a lot of his sources made through the magazine.

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Platon has published several portfolios in The New Yorker, many as powerful as this one. David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, put the words together on this piece. He begins with how President Obama called the Rev. Joseph Lowery of Alabama a few weeks before Inauguration to ask him to pray.

Remnick also recalls Obama’s speech from the pulpit of Brown Chapel here in Selma at the Bridge Crossing Jubilee about three years ago when the candidate made an appearance.

For those of you who attended that service, you know Lowery, a close friend of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., introduced Obama at Brown Chapel.

Ironically, this particular edition of The New Yorker, Feb. 15 & 22, comes out less than a month before the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

But it’s the photographs and not so much the words that draw people to this piece. Platon has taken those survivors of the civil rights movement and photographed them as they appear now.

The portfolio is something to behold. Many believe these freedom fighters as forever young because they see the old photographs from the 1950s and 1960s.

A photograph of Lowery, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, holding hands and seemingly in prayer outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, proves one of the most striking. You have to remember at the time of the movement most of these men were in their mid-to-late 20s.

Another is of Bob Moses, Diane Nash and the Rev. James Lawson of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. SNCC did not have as large a presence in Alabama as it did in Mississippi. However, some of those same feet trod U.S. 80 in the Selma-to-Montgomery march.

The photographs are stark. They are in black and white. And they speak volumes.

Leesha Faulkner is editor of The Selma Times-Journal. You may reach her at 410-1730 or e-mail her at