Born in New York City in 1931, Bob Adelman grew up on Long Island and has degrees from Rutgers, Harvard, and Columbia. He studied photography with Alexey Brodovitch, the famed art director of Harper’s Bazaar magazine whose influence can be seen in the haunting beauty of Adelman’s images. With an avid interest in social and political events of the day, Adelman was drawn to the sit-ins staged by young students across the American South. He volunteered to take photos of the demonstrations for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in the early 1960s and continued to be involved with civil rights issues and the human condition for the next four decades.

Adelman recounts that when he showed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a photo he made of demonstrators being hosed, King commented on the beauty of what was obviously a painful experience. Adelman’s interest in people and their plight drew him to document the civil rights movement and with his camera he could help others both see and feel the raw emotions of that time. Of all the photographers to cover the movement, Adelman’s images are among the most widely recognized.

Bob Adelman. [Ossie Davis speaks to the assembling marchers at the Washington Monument], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (001.00.00)
© Bob Adelman

Bob Adelman. [On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, members of Congress greet the demonstrators at the March on Washington], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (002.00.00)
© Bob Adelman

Bob Adelman. [Bayard Rustin speaks to the demonstrators at the beginning of the March on Washington], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.00.00)
© Bob Adelman

Bob Adelman. [Martin Luther King delivers the "I have a dream" speech from the podium], August 28, 1963. Gelatin silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (004.00.00)
© Bob Adelman