Black History Month: Capturing moments in History with Jim Karales

Most people recognize this iconic photo that James Karales took in 1965 of the The Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March:

James H. Karales (1930-2002) was a photographer and photo-essayist best known for his work with Look magazine from 1960 to 1971. At Look he covered the Civil Rights Movement throughout its duration, taking many of the movements memorable photographs, including those of the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family. When Look folded in 1971, Jim Karales went independent.

We were delighted to find out that this photographer’s eye also found his way to the neighborhood with his series Lower East Side in 1969; Some of these are made available online by Duke University’s Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. Though it’s only a partial view, it gives us a glimpse of the Lower East Side then and an opportunity to trace a connection with an individual who captured some of this country’s most important moments. Karales’ photographs are not mere frozen stills — they are laced with life and light, drawn forward by his ability to capture people in their sensitivity to the current social and cultural climate.

Here is a note from Karales about this series of photos of the Lower East Side in 1969.

“The purpose of this project is to photograph the daily life of an urban community.

This community which is located in New York City on 7th Street, between Avenues C and D, is more attractive than most Lower East Side streets because of its 19th century townhouses. Some of these houses have been restored and are owned by a single family or have been turned into co-ops. Although several houses are deteriorating, it is not just another slum block; it exhibits its enthusiasm of positive living standards.”

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