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Matinee: 'Matthew Lewis' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

9 October 2021

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 417th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Matthew Lewis.

This 11-minute video celebrates the career of photojournalist Matthew Lewis. Lewis won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for his "photographs in color and black and white" at the Washington Post.

After a freelancing for a while, he landed a staff position with the Post in 1965, the first African-American photographer to work for the paper. Before he left the Post in 1990, he had became assistant managing editor of photography. He covered everything from Super Bowls to Civil Rights marches for the paper.

But not everything was a banner headline assignment. He'd often go to work and be told nothing more than, "Go enterprise." Find something out there to photograph. And he was just as good at that, too.

He'd often go to work and be told nothing more than, "Go enterprise."

Retired in Thomasville now, he still packs a camera as he wanders around town. The video, in fact, begins by showing him shooting a local parade. Then it goes back to the beginning of his story when he learned photography shooting sporting events at Morgan State College and met Gordon Parks.

Parks told him the various focal lengths of lenses were like "adjectives and adverbs" that will tell a different story.

He began his career freelancing with a 35mm camera for the Baltimore Afro-American magazine (The Afro), running from one event to another, including the March on Washington.

Lewis remembers that vividly in this interview as he tells the story behind some of his favorite images, one after the other.

He also covered JFK's funeral in 1963. He had no script to guide his coverage of that seminal event but that didn't prevent him from catching several memorable shots.

The video continues the story of his career told in a few of his favorite images remembered in his own words. We also see him in his basement darkroom, sorting through his prints. You could spend days down there with him.

"Newspapers have room for only one photograph," he says. You don't think in terms of series. You think in terms of that single telling shot.

He talks about shooting the riots after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. The things he saw then, "you never forget, never forget," he says.

The video ends with the one image that still "sticks in his mind." He didn't care if it was ever published or not. "This picture I saw in front of me was for Matthew Lewis Junior," he says.

We'll let him tell you about it. Then you can grab a camera and, like Lewis, "go enterprise."

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