Benedict J. Fernandez

Benedict J. Fernandez is a renowned photojournalist whose career spans more than 45 years and whose work covers some of the most historic events in United States history during the last half century.

 

Fernandez began his photojournalism career in 1963, when he decided to turn a longtime hobby into his life's work. He came to the attention of Alexey Brodovitch, a renowned art director and graphic designer, who invited him to enroll in his design laboratory. Brodovitch, who became Fernandez's most influential mentor, arranged for Fernandez to become the darkroom technician and manager at Parsons School of Design. And with Brodovitch's encouragement, Fernandez founded the Photo Film Workshop, a program that taught photography to ghetto youth for free, in the basement of a public theater.

 

Fernandezís photojournalism developed in the 1960s with many studies of New York City and the surrounding area. He became one of the most important street photographers of the era with his photos of protest activities in the New York metropolitan area, as well as across the country, with his photos serving as a diary of the protest movement of the 1960s.

 

In particular, Fernandez's photos of Martin Luther King Jr. and the last year of his life serve as an extraordinary account and visual testimony of a photojournalist who captured a turbulent period in U.S. history. Fernandez's photographs of Dr. King were first produced by Kodak as 50 limited-edition, numbered portfolios titled Countdown to Eternity. Most of these portfolios were donated to museums, including the National Portrait Gallery, and universities. As a traveling exhibition, Countdown to Eternity, consisting of 80 black-and-white prints, has traveled to many major cities in the U.S., many countries in Western Europe, and 27 countries in Africa. This exhibition has been in continuous circulation since 1990 and continues to travel today.

 

Fernandezís work at the Photo Film Workshop brought Ben to the attention of the dean of the New School in New York City, Michael Engl, who requested that Fernandez help build a photography department at the New School. After founding this department in 1970, Fernandez served as the departmentís chairman at the New Schoolís Parsons School of Design until 1992.

 

Following Parsons, Fernandez continued his career in the 1990s as a founder and CEO of Hoboken Almanac of Photography and the Almanac Gallery in Hoboken, New Jersey, and as a senior fellow in photography at the Corcoran Museum in Washington, D.C.

 

He has written several books, including In Opposition: Images of American Dissent in the Sixties (1968), †

Countdown to Eternity (1993), Protest (1996), and I Am a Man (1996).

 

His numerous accolades have included appointments as senior fellow in photography at the Corcoran Museum of Art, senior Fulbright research fellow in photography, fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in China, and a Guggenheim fellow.

 

Fernandezís work is housed in permanent collections at institutions that include the Smithsonian, the National Portrait Gallery, the Corcoran Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Norton Simon Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the King Center, the University of Tokyo, and Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

 

Today, Fernandez continues to host worldwide photojournalism exhibitions and lecture engagements, and divides his time between his home in upstate New York and his studio in New Jersey. He is married with two children and five grandchildren.