Life and Soul: American Streets Honoring Martin Luther King • Susan Berger signed
Life and Soul: American Streets Honoring Martin Luther King explores visually how the legacy of Martin Luther King has permeated our culture. Susan Berger presents an objective and aesthetic description of these streets and their surrounding environments. By traversing some of the many streets renamed in honor of Dr. King, Berger captures this unique perspective on America, giving a sense of the neighborhood to show how life is lived on those areas today. This project explores the importance of Martin Luther King to our country, acknowledges his ongoing influence, and asks the question, “To what extent has Dr. King’s dream been realized?”
In 2009, photographer Susan Berger was driving through a rural section of the country when she saw a sign pointing to Martin Luther King Drive. She started thinking about the importance of the memory of Martin Luther King to our history and how his legacy affects our contemporary culture. Prompted by those thoughts, she decided to find other streets renamed for Dr. King, which resulted in this important documentary project. For five years, Berger traveled around the country exploring the geographic areas where drives, streets, avenues and boulevards named for Martin Luther King were located. She avoided those cities in which only a stretch of highway had been renamed in his honor and focused on the thoroughfares that ran through communities.
These images, shot on film and printed by the artist as silver gelatin prints, echo the style of the news photographs that documented the Civil Rights Movement. Berger’s images are contemporary urban landscapes influenced by such photographers as Harry Callahan and Robert Frank; by the documentary photography of the FSA photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Gordon Parks; and the artists of the New Topographics movement of the mid-1970s.