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February 8, 2022

John G. Zimmerman: American in Black and White

In 1952, renowned American photographer John G. Zimmerman moved to Atlanta. During his time there he shot a series of noteworthy assignments for Ebony depicting the lives of African Americans in the Midwest and the Jim Crow south. These photographs are a lesser-known yet notable part of Zimmerman’s early work. The subject matter ranges from the first all black supermarket in Detroit, boxing legend Joe Louis, to sharecropper Matt Ingram’s quest for justice.

The Center for Photographic Art states: “the work of John G. Zimmerman, one of the 20th century’s most wide-ranging and innovative photojournalists, helped generate a golden age in magazine photography. Zimmerman grew up in Torrance, California, developing and printing film in the family kitchen and darkroom. A three-year high school photography program with Hollywood cinematographer Clarence A. Bach prepared him for his first job as a staffer at Time magazine. Following that assignment he spent several years freelancing for Life and Ebony magazines, creating groundbreaking images of the lives of African Americans in the Midwest, and in the deeply segregated, pre-Civil Rights south.”

Take a look at Zimmerman’s work in the 1950s through 18 black and white photographs below:

Curtis Phillips, winner of the Shoe Shine Contest, Wilson, North Carolina, 1952.

Department store, 1953.

Jumping rope, Tennesse, 1953.

Swimming hole, Tennessee, 1953.

Matt Ingram, wife Linward and their children pray before dinner, Yanceyville, North Carolina, 1953.

Southern poverty, 1953.

Waiting for vaccines, Montgomery, 1953.

Polio vaccine, Montgomery, 1953.

Music teacher Katherine Motta in front of her home, 1953.

Washing dishes, New Orleans, 1953.

Facing eviction, 1953.

Rat catcher shows his bounty in the town square, Louisa Kentucky, 1953.

Joe Louis at gym, 1954.

Waiting room in the Northland Center Shopping Center, Detroit, 1954.

Cleaning old glory, Detroit, 1955.

Cleaning old glory, Detroit, 1955.

Richard Nixon at Young Republicans Biennial National Convention, Detroit, 1955.

Boston Marathon finish, 1956.


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