THE PICTURE TAKER
Famed Memphis photographer Ernest Withers documented the Southern Black experience for 60 years during the Jim Crow era. He captured iconic moments of the civil rights movement, including the Emmett Till murder trial, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Memphis sanitation strike. His work was crucial, keeping a just record of the Black community’s status and push for change. Civil rights leaders considered him an asset and ally — so many were shocked to learn after his death that he was an FBI informant for decades. Was Withers’s work as a photographer a façade to undermine the movement, or was he manipulated by an unjust system? THE PICTURE TAKER investigates his complicated legacy by examining his work and interviewing the people he photographed. What emerges is a complex portrait of a man and a divided nation. Despite the controversy, Withers’s almost two million photographs archive a pivotal period in American history that might not have been chronicled otherwise. This documentary profiles a significant historical figure without ignoring the challenging components of his legacy.
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