I am dedicating this post to the civil rights photographer Jerry Berndt, who sadly passed away in Paris earlier this month. Jerry and I first came into contact in 2012. I interviewed him for Hungry Eye Magazine and was immediately taken with his charm, experience and dedication to image making as well as civil rights.
He led an extraordinary life documenting in war-torn countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti. He also made enduring images of American public protest from the 1960s; while spearheading elements of the civil rights movement itself.
He has amassed an enormous body of work and to me his pictures are great. They serve as a powerful reminder of the human capacity for states of violence, injustice, sadness and ignorance as seen through the eyes of a man who has willingly embraced them all.
His photographs are included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the International Center of Photography (New York), and the Bibliotheque National (Paris).
In his own words, “If I go out with a camera and I am angry, I will look for angry things and I will find them, and the photographs when you look at them will say this. That’s what I always thought was the job of making pictures – that when you look at the image you should feel what I want you to feel.
“I used to teach photography and would tell my students, isn’t it interesting that when people go out with a camera, there are three things they always photograph – babies, animals and old men and old ladies. Why do you think that is? It’s because none of these people are going to whack you in the head. That’s why it is so fun for me to make photographs that don’t fit. That’s the job of the photographer.”
I will miss our chats Jerry, and your rage against the machine.