As a student at the University of the Arts in the graphic design department, I fondly remember Joel Katz’s students expressing the absolute joy of working with such a talented instructor. The Yale graduation conducts an information design course at UArts, but that only just skims the surface of his talents. He is more than a designer and a teacher, he’s also an incredible author and photographer.
The Galleries at Moore (1916 Race St.) have just announced an exciting new exhibition by Katz of his black-and-white photography work that chronicles the ‘Mississippi Summer’ of 1964, a heightened time for the civil rights movement.
In the summer of 1964, a thin, bespectacled Yale University student named Joel Katz plunged himself, with notebook and camera in hand, into the violence and pathos of the civil rights movement in Mississippi. It was “Freedom Summer,” a raw and uncertain time when three young civil rights workers were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi; when the young preacher Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy stumped through Jackson, the state capital, risking their lives with every speech; and when the nation drew its collective breath as armies of college students and civil rights workers – Katz included – descended into the Jim Crow South.
Katz, then a 21-year old design student, took the long bus ride from his home in Hartford, Connecticut to Jackson to spend the summer photographing and writing about the people of Mississippi. The result is a powerful collection of images accompanied by text that earned Katz the Strong Prize for American Literature Prize while at Yale.