Fertility within Tragedy | Burk Uzzle

posted in: Africa, North Carolina

People dying by the thousands. Leadership a horror. World spinning out of control. Unimaginable future. Within tragedy, fertility.

We feel, we cry, we say to our souls, survive. Our internal music intensely contrapuntal seeing death and it’s opposite – LIFE TO BE LIVED!  How? Heart of an artist formed the hard way with a million experiences. We plough that field as never before. We steady ourselves with the past. Our love of life distills rhetoric from circumstances.

This studio is alive with new projects and older ones with new wings.  For the past year, since I visited the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama that brought me to tears, I have focused my next body of work on those who are our Prophets.  THE PROPHETS PROJECT (https://www.burkuzzle.com/about#prophets) sets reverberations of racism with dozens of nooses suspended from forty feet against a backdrop wall to foreground  contemporary African-Americans who are Prophets of our future.  PROPHETS illuminates African-Americans who are transcending the legacy of hate by affirming a cultural present and future — a prophecy of unity and respect. To date, I have photographed writers, musicians, and sculptors as well as large stone artworks from Zimbabwe where we locate the origins of the American slave trade and which continue to reverberate a culture and beauty of each soul. I am enthralled with and humbled by those whose past and present paths I follow with reverence, grace, and profound appreciation for their voices and actions. Once we can again invite guests to the studio, this work will recommence without end.

As you may recall, in 2016 filmmaker Jethro Waters of Waters Film Ltd. started shooting F11 AND BE THERE, a feature length documentary about my studio and work.  Laughs and tears were shared and shed as studio and field life was revealed in a road trip across America to the darkroom in Wilson.  Together we also adventured many film festivals from Austin TX to Durham NC to Oaxaca Mexico.  It will now be viewed across America (seemingly appropriately) from your favorite chair via the PBS Reel South Season 5 series as Episode 1.  Please check your local stations for specific dates and times.  In NY it will be broadcast on 4 April 2020, in NC it will be shown on 9 April 2020, and in UT it will screen on 12-13 April 2020.  Waters writes to say, Making F11 AND BE THERE is historically relevant and now more timely than ever given our socio-political circumstances.  The film is also a love letter to hard work and craft.  I hope F11 AND BE THERE offers viewers a deeper understanding of how important and wonderful photography is especially when wielded by someone as wildly talented as Burk Uzzle.  I am honored to be the subject of this film and part of Jethro’s legacy and delighted that he also agreed to create an introduction to THE PROPHETS PROJECT, which can be seen on my website. www.burkuzzle.com

May we all come together to celebrate our shared humanity and to live in peace with equality and respect.

Please stay safe and keep healthy.


Burk Uzzle’s career, like his pictures, is a nuanced composition blending American culture, individual psyches of particular places or people, and an atypical way of seeing ourselves, our values, and our community. Always respectful yet locating the poignant or quirky, the history of his narrative belongs to all of us.

Initially grounded in documentary photography when he was the youngest photographer ever hired by LIFE magazine at age 23, his work then grew into a combination of split-second impressions reflecting the human condition during his tenure as a member of the prestigious international Magnum cooperative founded by one of his mentors Henri Cartier-Bresson. For fifteen years, Uzzle was an active contributor to the evolution of the organization and served as its President in 1979 and 1980. During the sixteen years he was associated with Magnum, he produced some of the most recognizable images we have of Woodstock (album cover and worldwide reproduction of its iconic couple hugging at dawn) to the assassination and funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. to our comprehension for the experience of Cambodian war refugees.

His archive spans almost six decades. His current work rests deep in photographic appreciation of the quiet, strong, and eloquent beauty he discovers in America’s small towns and its people. Uzzle’s current body of work is the production of artful and constructed reflections of his subjects, many of whom are African-American residents proximal to his studio in North Carolina. Their layers of experience are conjoined with Uzzle’s fundamental appreciation for unseen characteristics, which he ably captures in a collaborative, interpretive context along with his eye and his heart. interpretation, of art, of independently produced projects.


Follow Nancy McCrary:
Nancy is the Publisher and Founding Editor of South x Southeast photomagazine. She is also the Director of South x Southeast Workshops, and Director of South x Southeast Photogallery. She resides on her farm in Georgia with 4 hounds where she shoots only pictures.


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