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MLK’s Journey Reaches Science Park Walls
by Ariela Martin | Oct 2, 2012 9:10 am
Posted to: Arts & Entertainment, Black History, Newhallville
Bernice King peered into her father’s casket, viewing him for the first dead.
Benedict J. Fernandez was watching—with his camera. It was one of the hardest and most disturbing moments he faced as a photographer; his instinct as an artist and documentarian caused him to capture the unsettling and deeply personal snapshot over an unforgettable moment in America’s civil-rights history.
The photograph, along with 70 or so others, is displayed at Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT), the new job-training and youth arts program in Science Park. At a reception Thursday, ConnCAT hosted a discussion, live video stream, and podcast with Fernandez, who spent his time photographing civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.‘s final years in both his public and personal life.
The reception on Thursday evening highlighted Fernandez’s “Countdown to Eternity” collection, an intimate chronicle of the last year of King’s life. From 1967 through King’s assassination in 1968, Fernandez traveled with the civil rights leader. The photographs resulted in providing a unique look into the King home and daily life and the joys and struggles King faced as a key political leader in the face of an evolving nation.
“We are honored to have Ben’s collection at CONNCAT and to share it with the public at this special reception,” said Erik Clemons, CONNCAT’s executive director. “These photographs reflect not only Dr. King’s professional and personal activities and relationships, but his unwavering belief in a better future. They remind CONNCAT staff, students, and supporters of all that is possible even through difficult times.”
Rev. Frederick J. Streets, the acting pastor of Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church, interviewed Fernandez at Thursday’s event about his experiences, memories, and photographs during the Civil Rights Movement.
“Dr. King was larger than life,” Fernandez remarked. “As a photographer, I get the job done. I became friends with Dr. King. He represented a different way of thinking. He gave the understanding that religion is important.”
The discussion also featured a Q&A with the audience, in which Fernandez discussed the importance and value of photography. “You have the vehicle to get your thoughts out. If you have desires, the more you work, the more you have to say and the more you get out,” he said. He added that what’s important is to “convince them [the subject] that they’re the right person to expose their thoughts.”
Ariela Martin, a student at Cooperatives Arts & Humanities High School, is an Independent contributing writer.
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