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History, Photography, and Race in the South: From the Civil War to Now, Part 5—King’s Vibrato: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Sound of Photography

Maurice Wallace, associate professor, department of English, and associate director, Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies, University of Virginia. Bringing together some 115 photographs from across four decades of the artist’s career, Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings offers both a sweeping overview of her achievement and a focused exploration of the continuing influence of the American South on her work. For a public symposium held on April 14, 2018, in conjunction with the exhibition, Maurice Wallace argues for sound as a neglected consideration in photographic criticism. Every photograph, insofar as photography is defined by its soundless condition, represses the sound necessarily attending to the picture-taking event. Examining the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., in pictures, especially those that capture him in the art of speech-making or preaching, Wallace vividly demonstrates how photographs record sound’s memory, if not its audibility. Further, Wallace suggests a set of sounds, black sounds, that not only haunt some of Mann’s compelling photographs, but also belong to the very soundscape that shaped King’s own resonantly remembered voice. This program is made possible by the James D. and Kathryn K. Steele Fund for Photography.