Charles Moore’s Photographs Helped Spur Fight Against Racial Injustice

BY Arts Desk  March 16, 2010 at 3:05 PM EST

Charles Moore, a photographer whose images helped to enlighten the nation to the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and ’60s, died at the age of 79. According to his daughter, he died from natural causes in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Thursday, March 11.

Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, Moore used his camera to document inequality. As a photojournalist for the Black Star picture agency, Moore famously shot the 1958 arrest of Martin Lurther King Jr. in Montgomery, Ala.

Photo by Charles Moore/ Black StarMoore also recorded the demonstrations at the 1963 Birmingham march, snapping pictures as police official Eugene “Bull” Connor released police dogs and opened fire hoses on the demonstrators. He also captured “Bloody Sunday” — the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery — as a black man was beaten by a white police officer.

Instead of shooting from afar, Moore always used a short lens, immersing himself in the very scene he wanted to capture. His close-up pictures were praised by former New York Sen. Jacob Javits as helping “to spur passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Moore was born on March 9, 1931, and grew up in Alabama. His father was a Baptist minister who denounced racism and would even preach in black churches. As a white man, Moore walked a delicate line in the South. He considered himself an activist, but avoided confrontation; he didn’t want to risk missing photo opportunities stuck inside a jail cell.

Later in life, Moore photographed political violence in Haiti and Venezuela, the civil war in the Dominican Republic, and the war in Vietnam.

In 1989 Moore received the inaugural Kodak Crystal Eagle Award for Impact in Photojournalism. To get that far, he says he had to “fight with his camera,” which is also the title of the 2005 documentary about his career.

He is survived by his brother, Jim; his sons, Michael and Gary; his daughters, April Marshal and Michelle Moore Peel; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Watch the full documentary “I Fight with My Camera”: