I was born in 1939 and as a child took pictures with my father's small box camera. My father wasn't a good photographer but his gift to me was his love for the medium.
Although I,too, loved photography I felt there were enough photographers and that I had nothing unique to offer. In 1965. I was on the Board of Directors of the Newport Folk Foundation (I was a folksinger at that time) and the Foundation sent me to Mississippi in search of old blues singers. I took a photographer with me. Naively I assumed he would see what I saw. He didn't. I didn't understand how he could pass something I found incredibly mesmerizing for something I thought visually boring. That was when I realized that no one would see what I saw. I bought one of the original Nikon F's and returned to Mississippi on my own in the spring of 1966.
I became a photographer for the civil rights movement. Influenced by Walker Evans and the photographers of the Farm Security Administration I set out to document the South as it entered a period of profound change. It was in my capacity as a photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, a civil rights organization, that I also spent a month in North Vietnam photographing during the Vietnam war as well two weeks in Cuba.
I've had photographs exhibited in group shows at the Smithsonian Institute, Schomberg Library and
the Howard Greenberg Gallery, both in New York City, in a traveling exhibit of photographs from Auschwitz, Pivot Media in Northampton, Mass., and The Valley Portfolio in Springfield, Mass. Who I Am is a book of poetry utilizing my photographs and those of my mentor, David Gahr. My photographs illustrated Folk Blues by Jerry Silverman and have appeared in various magazines.
I am a writer and have published more than 30 books. I have been a member of the faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for 30 years where I am a professor of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies and adjunct professor of History.