Publishers Weekly
August 2, 2004
ECHO OF THE SPIRIT
A Photographer’s Journey
Chester Higgins Jr. Doubleday, $29.95
(256p) ISBN 0-385-50978-2


Celebrating the African Diaspora in 70 b&w photos, esteemed New York Times photojournalist Higgins links past to future in two sections ("Within the Blood" and "Water of Change") comprising 28 chapters, each consisting of one-to-10 page anecdotes that balance and elucidate the lively images (though the eloquent, intimate prose is often the standout). The first section captures family life in the rural South during the 1950s ("My Great Aunt Shugg Lampley Praying Before Going to Sleep"), as well as mentors and influences, including P.H. Polk, Romare Bearden and International Center of Photography founder Cornell Capa. Higgins’s aspirations as a young photographer were assured and pointed, and spoke to contemporary issues ("our media shows no positive images of black people," he said in 1970). Political and spiritual elements infuse pictures of students at Tuskegee University demonstrating during the Civil Rights movement and a proud Asante chief in Kumasi, Ghana, as well as an excavated African skeleton found with arms crossed ("the sacred sign of worship") in the downtown New York African Burial Ground. Higgins recommends uncovering one’s cultural history to "refocus our future," and he does so with intelligent clarity and — spirit. (Oct.26, 2004)

 
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