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Dan Budnik: ‘Marching to the Freedom Dream’ – The Heroic Encounter

Dan Budnik (Long Island NY, 1933 – Tucson AZ, 2020) studied painting at the Art Students’ League of New York. After being drafted, he started photographing the New York school of Abstracts Expressionist and Pop Artists in the mid-fifties, making it a primary focus for several decades. He made major photo-essays on Willem de Kooning and David Smith, among many other artists. It was his teacher Charles Alston at the Art Students’ League of New York, the first African American to teach at the League, who inspired his interest in documentary photography and the budding Civil Rights Movement.

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Marching To The Freedom Dream presents American photojournalist Photography feature – Dan Budnik’s significant body of work documenting three seminal marches of the civil rights movement. It is published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and precedes the 50th anniversaries of the Selma-Montgomery March and the Voting Rights Act in 2015. A foreword to the book is written by prolific civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte.

Published by Trolley Books, the book begins with the peaceful Youth March for Integrated Schools in 1958, organised by Harry Belafonte and Bayard Rustin, where the White House gates were rudely slammed in the faces of the petitioners. We then move to the iconic March On Washington in August 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr delivered his monumental “I Have a Dream” speech.


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The book culminates with the unprecedented and triumphant 54 mile Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. This was Dr. King’s greatest achievement where he led marchers, which at times swelled to 1000’s of people when safety conditions permitted, through some of the most segregated areas of rural Alabama, the heart of racist Dixie. Budnik’s images capture the non-violent solidarity of the participants. He salutes the diversity and passion of the marchers ranging from all walks of life who were willing to serve and sacrifice.

Alongside Budnik’s black and white photographs, his newly found colour work has been included in the volume, with his own handwritten- captions accompanying the images, providing a more contextual and personal information on the marches’ participants.

A photohistoric context will be written by photographer and scholar James L. Enyeart, former director of the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona and the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY.

“Dan Budnik is amongst American photography’s best kept secrets. His exceptional images from the Civil Rights era have been rarely seen since they were taken half a century ago….his portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. adorns one of TIME’s most memorable covers.” – Phil Bicker, Senior Photo Editor at TIME.

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