A Photographic Legacy Chronicling Black Society in Houston
In 1946, Louise Martin opened her first studio, Louise Martin Art Studio, in Houston’s Third Ward. She became the society photographer for the black community capturing families, soldiers, pageants, organizations, weddings and events of significant importance to her community. She was indefatigable, organizing in 1952 at the Louise Martin Art Studio, an exhibition described as, “one of the largest, most colorful and complete art exhibits to be held in Houston…featuring photography, oil painting, pastels, ceramics and sculpture.” Among many professional accolades Louise Martin received during her long career, she was particularly pleased to be named in 1967 Outstanding business Woman of the Year by the Houston League of Business and Professional Women.
Louise Martin had never heard of Martin Luther King, Jr. when she took his picture at the graduating class ceremony of Houston’s Irma Hughes Business College in 1958. King was a stand-in speaker for the President of Morehouse College who couldn’t attend. Ten years later, she was only one of two female photographers with press credentials to cover the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 9, 1968. The service at Ebenezer Baptist Church began at 10:30 a.m., followed by a march of all attending to Morehouse College for the second service which began at 2:00 p.m. Recalling the day, Martin said, “They all laughed when I came up with my old Graflex…my lenses were so good, I even got the cracks in the wagon.” Documenting the historic event placed Louise Martin in rarefied company. She knew exactly when to snap the shutter and record for us, all of us, the pathos and the deep sadness felt by our nation and the world.
Louise Martin spend her lifetime documenting with clarity the vital, gracious, and extraordinary black community of Houston. Her legacy continues, and it all began with a Kodak box camera.
Curated by Sally Reynolds