On Oct. 3, the “Civil Rights Leaders: Then and Now” exhibition opened in the gallery of Bloch Hall. It was produced by Montevallo art professor Scott Stephens.
The exhibition highlights photos taken by the late James “Spider” Martin. These photos are the ones taken during the Civil Rights Movement, specifically Bloody Sunday and the March to Montgomery. It also highlights photos taken by Jonathan Purvis, a recent Montevallo graduate and freelance photojournalist.
Professor and Interim Dean of the Art Department Scott Stephens spoke about the exhibition and pointed out the sequence of the photographs. The progression of the photos went from the early days of the Civil Rights Movement with Martin Luther King, Jr., Hosea Williams, Fred Shuttlesworth, Andrew Young and John Lewis. He continued by showing the photos of Bloody Sunday with those leaders and also Amelia Boynton Robinson. At another wall, it showed the successful March to Montgomery, then finally, the more recent photos of Ambassador Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Congressman John Lewis and Amelia Boynton Robinson by Jonathan Purvis.
James “Spider” Martin was born April 1, 1939 in Fairfield, Alabama. In high school he earned the name “Spider” due to his quick darting moves on the footabll field After that, the name “Spider Martin” stuck. He taught himself photography and was the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Photographer.” His photos were viewed by people both nationally and internationally.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Spider, we could have marched, we could have protested forever, but if it weren’t for guys like you, it would have been for nothing. The whole world saw your pictures. That’s why the Voting Act was passed.” Spider married and had two daughters: Tracy and Suzanne Martin. Tracy is the daughter who helped Professor Stephens and Jonathan Purvis make the exhibit come together.
Jonathan Purvis began his freelance documentary work while he was still a student at Montevallo. In 2007, he was the still photographer for a documentary film showing Fred Shuttlesworth’s return to Birmingham where he visited many sites, such as his childhood home, former church and the 16th Street Baptist Church.
Purvis also photographed for a documentary on Amelia Boynton Robinson. She suffered a severe beating on Bloody Sunday and is part of the photo that shows Robinson’s friends helping her up from the median where she was beaten. The exhibition shows various photos taken of Robinson, specifically one where she is looking at Edmund Pettus Bridge (site of Bloody Sunday).
In 2011, Purvis photographed Ambassador Andrew Young for a project that brought him back to the site at the Lorraine Motel where he was standing when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
After his participation in the 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington, Congressman John Lewis was photographed by Purvis for his 2013 portrait season. Purvis also spoke about his different projects and said, “a big part of photography now is caring about the subject you’re photographing.”
There is a lecture/panel discussion scheduled for Oct. 16. For more information, contact Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.