Lessons Learned from Photographing The Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine are the brave group of high school students known for their determination in enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling that segregated schools are unconstitutional. In 2010, they came together for a group photo at the very school where the 1957 Little Rock desegregation crisis took place. Take a look at the inspiring story in the short clip below:

Despite feeling honored to be afforded the opportunity to take the portrait, photographer Platon felt unsure about his decision, given that he himself was white and not even American, but he pushed his unease aside and assembled the group in front of the infamous Little Rock Central High.

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Elizabeth Eckford shown walking away from an angry mob of parents into a school that was previously attended by only white students (1957).

The assemblage brought about many emotions for the group. When Platon made the mistake of asking Elizabeth Eckford, the then 16-year-old girl in the photograph above, to bring her chin down to the same level of the others in the group for the photograph, she responded firmly, saying:

“Young man, don’t you ever ask me to lower my chin. I hold head my head up high with pride because I am so proud of what we did. And I will never lower my chin or bow my head ever again.”

The other members of the reunited group instantaneously—and without direction to do so—raised their own chins and clutched one another’s hands in unity.

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The Little Rock Nine (2010)

At that moment, Platon—who meant no disrespect but certainly learned a lesson—snapped the powerful photograph that documents not just the accomplishments of the Little Rock Nine’s past, but also the last time the entire group was together before the passing of Jefferson Thomas.

“I was quick enough to realize that what I accidentally created was a moment again. Instead of just gathering them there, we needed to go further. We needed to see their courage, their sense of unity, their sense of communal compassion.” –Platon

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