Capturing their souls through photographs
The photographer, Dorothea Lange, once said, “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” Keeping that in mind, one of the decisions I made early on about TRAILBLAZERS is that I wanted to include photographs of all of the women. This decision made this project far more difficult and costly to do, but I felt it was absolutely necessary. I wanted to use photographs that convey emotion and help readers connect with the women and their stories. The visual power of photographs is indisputable.
I selected photographs of each woman that reflects a time in space that closely correlates to the story that is being told. While most of the photos are portraits, some are action photos. Some emit playfulness, some are serious, and others capture a moment. I had this idea that when you flip the pages of the book, these black women of different ages and eras, skin tones and hairstyles would collectively show a beautiful mosaic of Black women.
Mary Church Terrell (l), Margot Webb (c) and Michelle Alexander (r).
Selecting photographs for this project was a challenging task. Besides picking out an appropriate photograph that fits with the text, I also had to deal with availability and costs. Some photographs were difficult to track down, and for some women, I had to pull rabbits out of a hat to make do with low-resolution photographs. As a small fledgling press, I am grateful to the many institutions and photographers who were very generous with permissions and costs, which was quite helpful.
Fanny Lou Hamer (l), Camille Brown (c) and Althea Gibson (r).
I have got stories about what I went through to get some of these photographs, and plan on sharing them with you in the coming months. Why? I think the selection process is pertinent to the whole essence of TRAILBLAZERS, and I am happy to share them with you.
Look at these photographs! These women are strong, stunning, and interesting. Their photographs are like poetry—its strength isn’t in what’s said; it’s in what’s left out. I love these trailblazing women in TRAILBLAZERS. I hope you do too.