Take Stock - Matt Herron

Founded by photojournalist and activist Matt Herron, Take Stock focuses sharply on two subjects: the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Migrant Farm Workers Movement, including images of Cesar Chavez. The special qualities of the photographs in this collection flow directly from the passionate convictions of the photographers who made them. The photographers are talented image-makers personally dedicated to the cause of social justice. The Image Works is the exclusive licensing and distributing agent for Take Stock.

Matt Herron studied photography in Rochester as a private student of Minor White, and then worked as a writer and photographer for the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia. A conscientious objector during the Korean War, Herron was organizing peace demonstrations and beginning to shoot assignments for Life and Look at the time the first sit-ins were occurring in Tennessee and North Carolina. He was arrested for attempting to integrate an amusement park in Maryland in the summer of 1963 and shortly afterward he and his wife, Jeannine, moved to Jackson, Mississippi with their two small children. They were the only family to move south and join the civil rights movement.

For the next two years Herron pursued three styles of photography: classical photojournalism for the major picture and newsmagazines, documentary photography as practiced by his mentor, Dorothea Lange, and photography as propaganda in the service of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other civil rights organizations. Often he was able to use news assignments as cover for a more documentary style of work. In the summer of 1964, Herron organized a team of five photographers, The Southern Documentary Project, in an attempt to record the rapid social change taking place in Mississippi and other parts of the South as civil rights organizations brought northern college students to work in voter registration and education. George Ballis and Danny Lyon were among the Southern Documentary photographers and Dorothea Lange served as informal adviser to the project.

In the fall of 1964 the Herrons moved to New Orleans rather than enroll their children in Mississippi schools, but they continued to be active in the civil rights movement. In the summer of 1965 they moved back to Mississippi where Jeannine was co-founder and program director of the Child Development Group of Mississippi, the first and largest Headstart program in the country. That year Matt won the World Press Photo Contest for his picture of a Mississippi highway patrolman attacking a five-year-old child.

In New Orleans, Herron began cooperating with District Attorney Jim Garrison, who was investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Herron had flown to Dallas on the day of the assassination, and looking at Dallas police reports with Mississippi eyes, had been among the early skeptics of the Oswald-as-lone- assassin theory. When Garrison lost his case against Clay Shaw, the Herrons left the US for a year-and-a-half sailing voyage to West Africa that carried them down the coast from Mauritania to Ghana. Their book, The Voyage of Aquarius, recounts this journey. A recent book, Our Big Blue Schoolhouse, chronicles that passage in the words of their son, Matthew, who was 13 at the time.