February 1 – March 23, 2003

The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College presents American Edge: Photographs by Steve Schapiro, a retrospective of 60 photographs on view in Fairchild Gallery from Feb. 1 through March 23. The photographer will present an illustrated lecture about his work on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 4:30 p.m. in the Mead Art Museum, followed by a gallery reception. A film series begins Sunday, Feb. 23, in Stirn Auditorium.

In the turbulent decade of the 1960s, Steve Schapiro traveled throughout America, making photographs that recorded the people, their environments and their social concerns. Working freelance and for the leading news magazines, Life, Look, Time and Newsweek, he produced compelling black and white photographs that defined the era. He is best known for candid portraits of political leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy and Richard Nixon, as well as celebrated cultural figures including Jackie Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, Andy Warhol, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Allen Ginsburg, among others on view in the exhibition.

In photo essays he chronicled the street life of an East Harlem drug addict (1960), migrant workers and their families in Arkansas (1961), the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation (1963) and rural black families in North Carolina (1963). His travels in the South with writer James Baldwin led him to Life assignments covering the Civil Rights movement. His searing images of rural Mississippi following the murders of three young activists, confrontations between segregationists and protestors, the marches in Selma, Ala. and in Washington, D.C. all convey the tension and turmoil of the times. In Memphis when Martin Luther King was shot, Schapiro poignantly documented the aftermath of the assassination within King’s empty hotel room. Schapiro also spent considerable time with Bobby Kennedy, on his Senate campaign as well as his Presidential run, producing memorable iconic images of the man and his admirers. Whether taken in the thick of “Ban the Bomb” rallies and Vietnam War protest marches or on stage at the Apollo or Hullabaloo TV variety show, Schapiro’s images throb with fervor and exuberance.

Born and raised in New York City, Steve Schapiro attended Amherst College (Class of 1955) and graduated from Bard College. He studied photography with W. Eugene Smith, who not only taught superlative printing techniques but also a humanistic approach to the photo essay. Combining New York grit and L.A. glamour, he’s made numerous celebrity portraits for magazine covers around the world including the first People magazine cover. In the entertainment field he did the poster for Midnight Cowboy and photographs for The Godfather as well as many other films. Schapiro’s photographs were included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1968 exhibition “Harlem On My Mind” and he participates in photojournalism shows around the world. For the last three years he has been contributing photographer for American Radio Works (Minneapolis Public Radio) producing on-line documentary projects: “Viet Nam Vets,” “The Mentally Disturbed and the Prison System” and “Survivors of Jim Crow.” His monograph, American Edge: Photographs by Steve Schapiro (Arena Editions, 2000), includes some 90 unforgettable images of the ’60s, from which the current exhibition is taken.

The presentation of this exhibition at the Mead Art Museum is supported by the Templeton Photography Fund and the Amherst College American Studies Department.


February 20, 4:30 p.m.
Artist's Lecture
Teaching Gallery, Room 223, Mead Art Museum
Reception to follow in museum

Film Series
Begins Sunday, Feb. 23, in Stirn Auditorium.

Video Interview
The following Real Video clips are available courtesy of Digital Journalist.
Interview with Steve Schapiro

Special thanks to Dirck Halstead at Digital Journalist and Arena Editions