Photographic Nights Festival Shines spotlight on Selma

Published 9:27 am Friday, November 10, 2023

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Photographic Nights of Selma was founded by JoAnne Bland and Stephane Kossman, two individuals deeply committed to art, history and the cultural legacy of Selma. Featuring guest photographers from around the globe, the festival highlights photography as an art form as well as spotlighting a yearly guest of honor. 

“We do this festival in France, and we do one in Morocco, and I said, we need to do one here.” Bland said. “So, we were looking around at spots that would be good to hang portraits and I said, we need to get someone else involved. We need to go to ArtsRevive. And they loved the idea.”

This year’s guest of honor was Fred Watkins. A still photographer on “Good Morning America” for over thirty years, Watkins has traveled with the likes of Nelson Mandella and Mohammed Ali and photographed hundreds of celebrities, musicians, athletes, politicians and historical events. 

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“JoAnne and Stephane have done a tremendous job. I’ve been honored all over the country but I’m really happy to be here. I came here with Obama” Watkins said. “I love the city. It’s a melting pot and I feel honored to be a guest here.” 

The festival not only showcases photographers and their work, but it also brings international attention to Selma and its rich history. Executive director at Arts Revive, Becky Youngblood said she hopes that events like this one will be a blessing to Selma in more ways than one.

“It’s growing every year and that’s what we want,” Youngblood said. “We want people to come from all over. [We want them] to eat in our restaurants and stay at our hotels and just fall in love with our city.”

Kossman is an internationally acclaimed photographer, while Bland is the cofounder of Foot Soldier Park as well as running the civil rights touring agency, Journeys for the Soul. 

The event, which celebrated its fourth year, is growing. Coming to fruition during COVID-19 quarantines, the event started off small but saw more participants this year than any of the previous three. Kossman spoke about the event’s continued success. 

“We are growing, every year there are more and more people. We have artists coming in from France, from Los Angeles, from New York, from DC. Of the photographers, 22 showcased here are actually here on site.” Kossman said. “And it really helps the economy here. They’re going to stay at hotels, they’re going to eat, go to the coffee shop. It really brings the community together.” 

Selma Mayor James Perkins was in attendance and said he was impressed with the event and the artwork. “I think the images touched every emotion available” Perkins said. “Very touching, very powerful. I think that everyone should get an opportunity to visit.”