Bob Newman’s portfolio Shadows Of Emmett Till was chosen as an 2020 Rfotofolio Selection .
We are pleased to share his work here on Rfotofolio.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
I am a retired physician, who, for the past 15 years, has been working as a professional photographer engaged in long-term projects. My career in medicine, with a practice that served disadvantaged communities, guides my work as a visual storyteller. I am drawn to collaborating with members of marginalized communities to document the challenges they face and the richness of their cultures. Many of those living in the Delta have been pushed to the margins of society. Shadows Of Emmett Till focuses on The Mississippi Delta and the Emmett Till lynching.
In 2020, I was honored to be named to the Critical Mass Top 50, Short Listed in the Portrait of Humanity Competition, and named a Finalist in the Fresh Annual Summer Exhibition, Kuala Lampur Photo Awards, and the Head On Photo Festival (Sydney, Australia). Rfotofolio 2020 chose my work as a Portfolio Selection. Additionally, I was awarded Jury Top 5, 1st Place, and 11 Honorable Mention Awards (People Category) in the 2020 International Photo Awards Competition (IPA).
I participated in VII Photo’s 2018-2019 Masterclass in Warsaw and the 2019 Eddie Adams Workshop. Additional awards received in 2019 include Travel Photography of the Year Finalist, International Photography Awards Best of Show and 1st Place Awards, and B/W Child Competition (2nd Half of 2019) Grand Winner and 1st Place Documentary Awards. Photography @ Oregon Gallery (Eugene, OR) hosted my “Irish Traveller” images in a Solo Exhibition in the fall of 2019.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I have not had training in a formal photography program. Rather I have been fortunate to participate in a number of photo workshops with a spectrum of photographers including Magdalena Sole, Keron Psillas, Joseph-Philippe Bevillard, Arthur Meyerson, Sam Abell, Peter Turnley, Nevada Wier, Karl Grobl and others. Each of these individuals have significantly contributed to the way I go about capturing images today.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
Several photographers have impacted my work and thinking. Those include Josef Koudelka, whose photographs of Gypsies in Slovokia/Romania portray fragility and also hope. Sebastiao Selgado’s masterful images portray the adverse socio-economic conditions of humans with great sensitivity. Steve McCurry’s consistently makes evocative color photographs that capture the humanity of people. William Egleston makes ordinary subjects extraordinary in his compelling color photographs. Each of these masters provides inspiration in their own way.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
Several years ago, I ran across this photograph of an Irish Traveller Girl standing in front of a caravan at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair in Ireland. Travellers are historically nomadic, living in horse drawn caravans. Her dress is typical of young Traveller girls at horse fair. This image is a wonderfully sensitive example of an environmental photograph which depicts what it is like to be a Traveller.
© Joseph-Philippe Bevillard
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson.
This image was captured at Red’s, a blues club in Clarksdale MS. The club was bathed in red light, and I had no idea how the images I took would turn out.
I experimented with different ISOs and shutter speeds. This was the only image I took that night that “worked.” So, even if you are not sure what to do,experiment and make the best picture that you can. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.
I first went to the Mississippi Delta on a photo trip in 2014. I had never been to the Delta and wanted to see what it was like.
It was been called “The Most Southern Place On Earth”, a region of layered histories that collide with each other on a daily basis. It’s a place that defines America and Americans like no other part of the country – a culture entwined with slavery, poverty, and political and economic oppression. It is the land that gave birth to the creative genius of Muddy Waters and B.B. King, and to the horror of the Civil Rights-era lynching of young Emmett Till.
Prior to this time, I had not ever done focused work on a specific project over a prolonged period of time. Rather, I had photographed in a place and not returned.
This trip marked a major change in strategy for me. I have returned to the Delta over a dozen times, stopped in 40 towns and driven countless miles photographing people and places to better understand and tell the story of the Delta. I always find something new and different. This series of images is a part of that project.
What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?
I enjoy post-processing and then sequencing my images to tell a story. Sometimes I add a narrative. Other times I let the images speak for themselves. I love sharing the stories with others.
How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?
If nothing seems to be moving forward, I take a break from the project
for a week or so and focus on something else. Often, when I return to the
work, the fog has cleared, and I can begin to move in a positive direction.
What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?
I am a big fan of Lightroom. I use Keywording to help locate images
and do 95% of my post-processing using this software.
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
I grew up in a small rural Oklahoma town. My father spent his life there and died when I was thirteen. I would like to do a photographic essay on his life, which ended some fifty-seven years ago.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
When I began to photograph in the Mississippi Delta, I did not go with a preconceived notion about who or what to photograph. Much of the work has focused on people in difficult socio-economic circumstances in both black and white communities.
As a white male physician, much of my practice involved the care of people in similar circumstances. However, as the people in the Delta have allowed me to come into their homes and photograph their lives, I have gained a much deeper understanding of what day- to-day life is like.
What I might expect or have experienced is not everyone’s reality. It helped me to more deeply understand the struggles and challenges experienced by people who are marginalized and impoverished.
How has the pandemic influenced your work methods ? Or has it?
The pandemic has given me an opportunity to spend time going through my photographic archive and begin work on two photography books. In addition, I produced a video of my Irish Traveller work.
What’s on the horizon?
Bringing two photography books to completion and exploring photo opportunities in Eastern Europe.
Thank you Bob, to learn more about the work of Bob Newman please visit his website at Bob Newman.