Odell Mitchell Jr. looks back on sterling career with show at Sheldon
Among the shows opening at the Galleries at the Sheldon Concert Hall is Odell Mitchell Jr. Retrospective, which highlights photographs from his professional career and personal work made over the last 30 years.
We asked Mitchell, who was an award-winning photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 24 years, to select some of the pictures that will be in the exhibit and write what made that image special for him. Below are his choices; go to the Sheldon to see more.
Aviva and Mickey getting hot dog bubble gum
When my children graduated from college, I made them photo albums of their life from birth to graduation. Of all the pictures I have done, my most joy came from doing pictures of my children. This is from one of our many visits to Union Station, and every time they would ask to go to the candy store to get hot dog bubble gum. If I would have let them, they would have filled their basket with the gum, but I knew I would have to explain it to their mother.
Listening to the jazz tenor saxophonist in concert at Iowa State University's Maintenance Shop made it easy to do a picture of him. This was done at the end of the concert. In those days I had to wait until I developed the film be to be sure. When I saw the picture, I was excited and happy.
The visit of the Pope was one of the biggest events for St. Louis in 1999. After a day of events, Pope John Paul II was going to do an evening mass. We, the press, were told we would be allowed to photograph the Pope as he arrived at the cathedral. As he walked in, we begin to photograph him greeting some of the church leadership; then he walked into Blessed Sacrament Chapel. To our surprise, he knelt and began to pray. An Associated Press photographer knelt in front me and began to shoot. I remember telling her not to stand up because I was right above her. This is the picture that came out of that shoot. Larry Coyne, director of photography at the Post-Dispatch, gave the picture about half of the front page. It was probably the largest picture I have had displayed in the paper.
Legendary dancer Katherine Dunham had returned to her home in East St. Louis after it had been renovated. She wasn't doing many interviews, but Doug Moore, Post-Dispatch reporter, was able to get one, and I was able to go along to do photographs. As we were going about the interview, to our surprise, state Rep. Wyvetter Younge (left) walked in and greeted Dunham with a kiss. Younge had always participated in Dunham's dance workshop. It was a privilege to have been able to photograph two of East St. Louis' legends.
South African girl crying
Jon Sawyer and I were assigned to go to South Africa to do a series of stories on the dismantling of apartheid. We followed the caravan of Walter Sisulu and Alfred Nzo to an event in Kagiso. I remember it being hard to keep up in our Volkswagen car. When arrived, we found out that it was a mass ANC funeral for 19 victims of the political violence between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party. As I begin to take pictures, I saw the little girl sitting on her mother's lap with red eyes. She was one of many sitting together who had family members killed in the violence.
KKK protest and counter protest
We were told not to get too close to the Ku Klux Klan protest at the Jacksonville city hall when I was a staffer at the Florida Times-Union. As the counter protest crowd began to grow and get louder, I watched one of the senior staffers get closer, so I followed. The grand wizard began to look for a way out of the situation. This picture was similar to one by another staff photographer and his was chosen for publication.
In addition to his career at the Post-Dispatch, Mitchell has taught seminars on photography and has been a judge in various photographic competitions. He currently teaches photography to college and high school students.
The show: Odell Mitchell, Jr. Retrospective, June 8 – Sept 1, at the Galleries at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd.www.thesheldon.org/galleries_current.asp
Master Class: Photography workshop with Odell Mitchell Jr., Saturday, July 14, 2012, 10:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Odell Mitchell, Jr. will discuss his experiences in the world of photojournalism and will provide portfolio feedback and tips for improving work. Bring up to 6 prints to discuss. $65 per person, lunch included. Space is limited. Call Rebecca Gunter at 314.533.9900 x18 by July 3.