Two Clenched Fists; Two Slices from the ’70s

June 30, 2010

When I think of “the ’70s”, I think of ugly orange and brown shag carpet that didn’t seem ugly then, sideburns and bell-bottom pants, protests and love-ins, and a feeling of “change”–good or bad–was the order of the day.

1974 speaker on the University of Missouri campus (Copyright John S. Stewart)

In one moment on a sunny fall afternoon in 1974 on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Missouri, I was a student walking from class to the dorm. In the next moment I found myself in the middle of a group of orderly but somewhat tense mostly African-American students walking in a deliberate direction. I decide to go with the flow and see where I end up.

Beginning photojournalism students were strongly urged to have a camera with them always. It never occurred to me to NOT record the event on film. That’s in the DNA of a photojournalist. But, it also never occurred to me that this was a timely spot news event and that the value of spot news photos have a very short shelf life.

1975 Rock Concert (Copyright John S. Stewart)

For that reason this photo of the impromptu speaker and his iconic clenched fist was never published. That was a hard lesson learned that became more important as my freelance career took me to shooting for wire service clients and then into the digital era when editors began expecting to see images on their desktops not in hours but in minutes after they are taken.

The shot of the second clenched fist was taken during a summer 1975 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band rock concert on an Ozarks’ pasture in Lawrence County, Missouri. The protests in this event came from neighbors who felt invaded.

John S. Stewart



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