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The Picture Taker

Photographer Ernest Withers shot over a million images, capturing the stars of Negro League Baseball and Memphis music alongside the everyday celebrations and sorrows of his tight-knit community. An intrepid journeyman for the Black press and often uncredited source for the white mainstream, he chased stories throughout the south and behind the scenes, drawing the world's attention to the civil rights movement from the Emmett Till trial through the King assassination and beyond. After his death, Withers was exposed as an FBI informant who'd provided photos and information about activists who'd welcomed him into their inner circle. The Picture Taker explores his motives and digs beyond the headlines that threaten to reduce a complicated life into a sensational sound bite. The Picture Taker raises questions about community, power, and patriotism in times of great social upheaval, and the lens through which we judge history. Neither saint nor sinner, loyalist nor traitor, Withers' choices and the record he left behind provide an invaluable map of the roads this country has traveled, and how far it has yet to go.