The Digital Journalist

Martin Luther King Jr.

Though I photographed Dr. King in many churches and on marches, I rarely saw him relaxed. A photograph I took during the Selma march became the cover image for King's book "Where Do We Go From Here," but like many other civil rights photographers, I was privy only to public events.

In looking back at the many photographs I took, I eventually started to take careful notice of his eyes and the look that pervades them. I see something in his eyes that, despite his enormous strength of leadership, could only be called a wariness or foreboding fear. Martin Luther King Jr. had to be incredibly brave to become the voice of the Southern Christian nonviolent movement. The threat of death was enormous and constant, and King himself said he doubted he would ever reach the age of 40. He did not.

When King was shot in Memphis. Life immediately sent me there. I first photographed the second-floor bathroom in the rooming house from where the shot had been fired. I photographed a handprint on the wall, which I assumed was that of the assailant. At the Lorraine Motel, inside the room where Dr. King had stayed, his briefcase, dirty shirts, and coffee cups were scattered on a ledge near the TV. When the ghostly image of King appeared on the television set, I photographed the room and its contents. It gave me an eerie feeling. The physical body of Martin Luther King Jr. was forever gone, leaving behind a few small material remnants: a wrinkled shirt, a book, a Soul Force magazine, and a half-filled Styrofoam coffee cup. Yet his spirit lingered on, floating from the television set on the wall, from which King continued to speak.