MPB Programs

Kids Programs

A-Z Programs

Episode #207

Photo Essayists

Air date 00/00/10
Host: Gene Edwards
Guest(s): Maude Schuyler Clay, Birney Imes, Jane Rule Burdine, Eric Etheridge, Phoenix Savage, Turry Fluker

“You have a story when you take a photograph, but it’s so interesting how other people make their own myths about that photograph,” says Maude Schuyler Clay. She’s answering host Gene Edwards’ question about the stories her images tell. The Sumner, Mississippi, photographer joins Jane Rule Burdine and Birney Imes in the opening segment of Writers: Photo Essayists.



“A good snapshot keeps the moment from running away.” –Eudora Welty

“You have a story when you take a photograph, but it’s so interesting how other people make their own myths about that photograph,” says Maude Schuyler Clay. She’s answering host Gene Edwards’ question about the stories her images tell. The Sumner, Mississippi, photographer joins Jane Rule Burdine and Birney Imes in the opening segment of Writers: Photo Essayists.

All three guests have published beautiful books chronicling the Magnolia State, and all three abundantly share their photographs as they talk of what they shoot and why.

“Thinking of myself as an archivist, I went out and tried to capture the things that were disappearing,” Clay says of her black and white pictures of delta “field churches, mule barns, cypress houses.” She jokes that all these things were being “reclaimed by nature.”  These images fill her book “Delta Land.”

Jane Rule Burdine first “picked up a camera” in the late 1960s. Initially, she “took pictures of horses and cows and bugs on fences.” After a mentor gave her a show, she taught herself more about this art, and then “just kept on from that” with the hopes of eventually creating a book. That book, “Delta Deep Down,” was published in 2008.

 “Just getting out and photographing and looking at books” is how Birney Imes began. He’s published three collections. In “Juke Joint,” he recorded “these mysterious places that had wild painting on the wall and just all this other worldly type of life.” “Partial to Home” also allowed him to explore a world unfamiliar to him, but “Whispering Pines” is comprised of fascinating photographs of only one place—a roadhouse of the same name.

With beautiful photographs of the land and the people who inhabit it, these three photographers agree that “it does help when you’re not just victimizing somebody by taking their photograph.” Clay expands. “The nature of photography is about the moment and the instant and whatever relationship you forge with a person. It may not take you a long time, but then there’s this lasting image and people make of it what they want.”

Lasting images were the starting point for photographer Eric Etheridge. He’s Gene Edwards’ second guest and he talks about his mesmerizing book “Breach of Peace, Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders.” “I was looking for a photography project and I was looking to work with historical images,” says Etheridge. “And I just one day flashed on the Sovereignty Commission files.” Upopn calling the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, he learned that there were about 500 mug shots in the collection. “I saw two of them. They were stunning images, and I realized that I had my project.”

The Freedom Rider’s name, address, and birth date were on the back of each mug shot. “I just started cold calling people.” After making initial contact, Etheridge traveled the country interviewing and photographing the Freedom Riders. The pages of his book pair the 1961 photographs with his compelling, contemporary portraits—and their individual stories.

“It interests me that almost to a man and a woman, they went ahead and made something of themselves,” observes host Gene Edwards. Then he asks how the project changed the author/photographer. “The thing that I didn’t expect for was how profound it would be for me to learn my own history,” Etheridge answers. This native Mississippian who was four in 1961 adds, “that’s what I’m hope to sort of share through the book, as well.”

History is the sole topic of the third segment. Researchers Turry Fluker and Phoenix Savage gathered photographs from many sources to tell the story of “African Americans of Jackson.” Using only pictures, their book traces local Black history from the first images available. “Photography at that time was not a snapshot process,” comments Savage. “You had to sit and you had to wear your best and be still for a moment or two and be remembered.”

“I’ve been around locals who are flipping though the book and they recognize an aunt or a relative or they recognize the church,” she continues. “And they begin to tell their stories.

Stories told with words because of stories told without words. Writers: Photo Essayists.


Jane Rule Burdine

Delta Deep Down, University Press of Mississippi, 2008

Maude Schulyer Clay

Delta Land, University Press of Mississippi, 1999

Birney Imes

Juke Joint, University Press of Mississippi, 1990

Partial to Home, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994

Whispering Pines, University Press of Mississippi, 1994

Eric Etheridge

Breach of Peace, Atlas & Co., 2008

Turry Fluker and Phoenix Savage

African Americans of Jackson, Arcadia Publishing, 2008s


Jane Rule Burdine

Photographer Reflects on Three Decades of Documenting the Mississippi Delta
Delta Deep Down

Maude Schuyler Clay

ART IN REVIEW; Maude Schuyler Clay
Biography and Artist’s Statement

Birney Imes

Recent Stories & Articles

Eric Etheridge

Photo blog
Breach of Peace blog
On Tavis Smiley

Phoenix Savage

Phoenix Savage’s web page


Click here for a complete list of teaching resources related to this episode.


The music featured in the first minute of this episode of Writers is an original work, composed and performed by Neilson Hubbard. A Jackson, Mississippi native, Hubbard is a singer/songwriter/producer who currently lives in Nashville and operates his own studio there. He first published his song “Louisiana” on his 2008 album “I Love Your Muscles,” and he adapted the song slightly for Mississippi Public Broadcasting to use in this show. Thanks to Neilson. He’s a delightful and talented guy.


Producer: Edie Greene
Director: Rick Klein
Technical Director: Clark Lee
Cameras:  Earnest Seals, Randy King, John Lanford, Chris Bufkin, Ryan Bohling
Floor Director: Laura Mann
Production Audio: John Busbice
CCU: Adam Chance
Videotape: Steve Downing
Production Assistants: C. J. Burks, Corey Hart
Lighting Director: Kenneth Sullivan
Location Videography: Jeremy Burson, Chris Bufkin, Ryan Bohling
Location Lighting: Randy King, Kenneth Sullivan
Production Supervisor: Paul Miller
Editor: Edie Greene
On-line Editor: Larry Uelmen
Editing Supervisor: Scott Colwell
Art Director: Karen Wing
Makeup: Audrey Fitzpatrick
Title Animation and Graphics: Frank Cocke
Audio Post Production: Taiwo Gaynor
Closed Captioning: Keri Horn
Scenic Designers: Karen Wing, Jack Thomas, Frank Cocke, Kenneth Sullivan
Scenic Craftsman: Jack Thomas, Ray Green
Production Coordinator: Glenroy Smith
Publicity: Mari Irby, Randy King, Darrell Lee
Webmaster: Thomas Broadus
Host:  Gene Edwards
Guests: Jane Rule Burdine, Maude Schuyler Clay, Birney Imes, Eric Etheridge, Turry Fluker, Phoenix Savage
Voice of Dave Dennis: Jarvis Blackmon
Voice of John Lewis: Darrell L. Lee
Voice of Hezekiah Watkins: Jessie Tribune
Director of Productions: Darryl Moses
Director of Content: Jay Woods
Executive Producer: Rick Klein

Special Thanks to

Foundation for Public Broadcasting in Mississippi
Lemuria Books
Smith Robertson Museum

“Louisiana” from the album “I Love Your Muscles” © 2005. Used by permission of Neilson Hubbard/Plastic Bird Music. All rights reserved.

Images of Darlove, 1981(Page 13); Sunflower County, 1994; Washington County, 1998; Bolivar County, 1990; Jonestown, 1996; Crowder, 1988; Jonestown, 1991; Ruleville, 2007; Yazoo county, 1994; Darlove, 1981 (Page 49); Shaw, 1978; Jonestown, 1985; Sunflower County, 1996; Parchman, 1989; Clarksdale, 1986; Sunflower County, 1997; Greenville, 1993; Sunflower, 1996; and Washington County, 1988 from the book “Delta Deep Down.” © 2008. Used by permission of Jane Rule Burdine, photographer. All rights reserved.

Images of Dog on a Log, Barn, Vine House, Vineyard Dog, Leaning Tower, Field Tracks, Field Church, Traveling Dogs, Country Road in Spring, Turnrow Dog, Fitzgerald House, Tree on Good Earth Plantation, Mule Barn, Commissary Dog, Four Trees and Water Tower, Abbie Banks and Cotton Field, Cotton Seed Houses, Dog in the Fog, and Cassidy Bayou from the book “Delta Land.” © 1999. Used by permission of Maude Schuyler Clay, photographer. All rights reserved.  

Images of Blume and Rosie Summer 1986; Blume with Chicken; Blume behind Counter; Rosie and Blume, Summer 1986;  Blume and Rosie, New Year’s Day 1988; Blume, New Year’s Eve 1988; Untitled, July 1991 (Page 74) Untitled, August 1993 (Page 85);  Untitled, February 1992 (Page 87); and Untitled, February 1992 (Page 93)from the book “Whispering Pines.” © 1994. Used by permission of Birney Imes, photographer. All rights reserved.

Images of Riverside Lounge, Shaw; The Playboy Club No. 2, Louise; Demar’s Place, Clarksdale; Out of Sight Club, Yazoo City; Pink Pony Café, Darling; Blue Lite Disco, Rosedale; The Magic Star, Falcon; A. D.’s Place, Glendora; The Horseman Club, Crawford; the Social Inn, Bunnison; Mattson Café; Turk’s Place, and Leflore County from the book “Juke Joint.” © 1990. Used by permission of Birney Imes, photographer. All rights reserved.

Images of Freedom Riders on bus, Freedom Riders looking at map, four Freedom Riders sitting on bench in terminal, Freedom Riders at lunch counter, white man on ground in front of Freedom Rider bus, burning bus, patrolmen escorting Freedom Rider bus, Freedom Rider and policeman, Freedom Rider being arrested, Freedom Riders in paddy wagon, and Sovereignty Commission files used by permission of AP/Wide Word Photos. All rights reserved.

Images of Bus Station, Parchman Gate, Peter Ackerberg, John Lewis, Joan Pleune, Margaret Leonard, Helen O’Neal McCray, Paul Breines, Miller Green, Jesse Harris, Hezekiah Watkins, Dave Dennis, and Hank Thomas from the book “Breach of Peace.” © 2008 Used by permission of Eric Etheridge, photographer. All rights reserved.

Images of pages 34-35, 44-45, 48-49, 112-113, 120-121, 150-151, 184-185 and words of Dave Dennis, John Lewis, and Hezekiah Watkins from the book “Breach of Peace.” © 2008 Used by permission of Eric Etheridge and Atlas & Co. Publishers. All rights reserved

All mugs shots are from the State Sovereignty Commission files and courtesy of the MDAH. All mug shots are online and can be searched at

Images of wedding (SCRID #10-35A-0-44-1-1-1ph), civil rights arrests (SCRID # D15-0070-1), young woman confronted by police (SCRID # D09-0047), marching band on Capitol Street (SCRID #10-35A-0-14-1-1-1ph), Tougaloo Nine (SCRID #F854-2114-1 and SCRID #F584-2114-2) and Sovereignty Commission memo (SCRID # 2-144-0-1-1-1-1, SCRID #2-144-0-1-2-1-1, SCRID #2-144-0-1-3-1-1) courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. All rights reserved.

Image of Turry Fluker used by permission of Donna Dye, photographer. All rights reserved.

Images of At Your Service, We Supply All Your Hair Needs, Gustava Gooden, Luther Marshall, Verna Anderson, Lady in Sunday Best, May I Take Your Order?, Thomas Family Reunion, Mount Helm Baptist Church, Two Women and a Young Boy, Destroyed by Fire, Music Lessons, Seth Ballard, Freedom Now, Hair Cuts, and All Had a Good Time used by permission of Smith Robertson Museum. All rights reserved.

Image of Baptism used by permission of Martha Anderson Handy. All rights reserved.

Image of Marching Band used by permission of Farish Street Baptist Church/Hickman Johnson. All rights reserved.

Image of A Visit to the Library. Copyright implications may exist.

Images of Confessions, Borinski Institute, Bobby Kennedy and Rev. Ed King, The Duke, The Concert, Tougaloo Gates, and Tougaloo College Graduates used by permission of Tougaloo College. All rights reserved.

Image of Lunch Counter Sit-in (WHi 2381) used by permission of Fred Blackwell, photographer. All rights reserved.

Images of James Farmer (WHi 26766), Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee members (WHi ID 32236), and Freedom School outdoor classroom (WHi 1854) used by permission of Wisconsin Historical Society. All rights reserved.


Created by Gene Edwards, John Evans


Copyright © MAET 2009


Click here for teaching resources available for this specific episode.