Tell It Like It Is was first published in 1968 but it was destined to be re-published. It is not an epic. It is a photographic slice of another era, and a small piece of one family’s history in the U.S.
In 1967 I was 23, in graduate journalism school in Missouri, and married. My first son Bryan was just 7-months old. I had no money, was unknown as a photographer, and had no mentors. There were two major social upheavals in the U.S. at the time: The Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. Socially conscious photographers of the era typically focused on one or the other. My friend Charles Hofheimer proposed we do a book on black family life. He had been working with local organizations involved with bettering the lives of blacks living in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Norfolk, Virginia. I jumped at this idea. Rather than shoot pictures all over what was known as the Berkeley ghetto in Norfolk, we decided to do a photo essay with one cooperative family. James Liggins and his wife Callie opened their door to us. They had 7 children ranging in ages from 2-15 years old. The Liggins’ lived in a small apartment in a 5-story tenement building. For approximately one month, I spent all my time with the family. - DAH