In the shutter of one’s camera flash does one truly know they are cementing history? Taking a moment in time and tethering it to the future for all to interpret. Therein lies a hallowed responsibility, the bond between image and truth. John Tweedle did so with every picture he took, encapsulating our heritage, preserving our dignity, following his passion- one flash at a time. This imposing man with a heart of gold, regarded as the favorite photographer of Dr. Martin Luther King when he traveled to the North, known for capturing images no one else could secure. John Tweedle infused the soul into the photograph and that is something that steps beyond talent… that’s a calling.
Some of us may be familiar with Dr. King’s historic trip to Chicago in 1966, while others may not know of its significance. I, for myself, understood a marginal amount of King’s time on the West Side of the city, treating it like another chapter in this change agent's life. Well aware of his iconic statement, “I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hateful as I’ve seen here in Chicago,” shredding the illusion to a lot that the North was a promised land for African Americans to escape institutionalized racism. Little effort had been put in on my part to understand the climate of the times, the key players that mobilized for this civil rights campaign, the way it forever changed the lives of all involved.
This segment of Chicago and American history was thrown against the larger social and political changes continuously sweeping through the country. The Vietnam conflict and polarizing opinions around it, the demand for Black Equality and the clear diversions amongst Black community leaders on the most effective way to secure it, the last vestiges of the Great Migration of Southern Blacks moving to the North for better economic opportunities and to escape Southern hatred, an ever changing national political scene after the assassination of JFK, the beginning of the Black Panther Party, a never ending list of issues to contend with.
Preview of MLK images being minted as NFTs and auctioned Juneteenth 2022.
America was at a critical juncture and its consciousness was being tested. Having come to Chicago as one of the first African American photographers hired by the Chicago Daily News, he was poised to see it all. The man known to have five cameras around his neck at once, snapped away determined to show it all. Coupled alongside him in the fight for equality Hermene Hartman, the woman poised to be one of the most respected publishers of her time, was an adolescent, having her own destiny shaped by the times. Her professional acquaintance with John, seeing his work ethic, his professionalism, attention to detail, and commitment to the cause, left a lasting impression.
In understanding the importance of his work and the access he had to one of the most influential men in World History, left a lasting impression on her, so to be bestowed with his life’s work upon his untimely passing, passed the mantle to her to protect the legacy of both John and community. This man who, being so committed to his craft passed in City Hall, on assignment, serving as the official photographer for the City of Chicago, left a mark that has not since been filled. It has not been until recently that his impact is coming to the forefront as it should, with Mrs. Hartman preserving the images he captured of Dr. King in conjunction with the Obsidian Collection as NFTs through our partnership with Lobus to be auctioned on Juneteenth 2022..
Such is the journey I was privileged to hear, as I hosted the inaugural episode of Obsidian Stories podcast with the iconic Hermene Hartman.
She is the Founder of The Hartman Group, Publisher of the legendary N’digo periodical, activist, professor, fashion aficionado, and everything in between. Our conversation took my nominal understanding of the impact left by John Tweedle and his relationship with Dr. King and completely widened my eyes. Through his camera he took the giant and returned him to his humanity, giving us all a multifaceted understanding of the icon. A public figure in his own right Tweedle’s legacy and Mrs. Hartman’s commitment to preserve it, and the partnership between herself and The Obsidian Collection Archives is a living testimony to the power of community.
This NFT collection passes the baton so that the next generations know their worth and are empowered to start their own journey. May it spark more conversation. May it offer perspective. May it give one more reason for us to beam with pride in ourselves and our city. I am humbled to represent The Obsidian Collection in their latest endeavor, and I hope you come along for the ride.
NOTE: This conversation is our first of The Obsidian Stories Podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Sticher and Podchaser.