Marching to the Freedom Dream

We take a closer look at the little-known-legend that photographed the King

Arts+Culture Cult VIP
Marching to the Freedom Dream
Cover of special commemorative issue of TIME magazine, profile portrait of King moments after his greatest speech 'I Have A Dream' Dan Budnik

Dan Budnik is not a name you necessarily jump to when the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s comes to mind, yet he was behind some of the most striking and significant photographs of the era. Budnik was present for the early Youth March For Integrated Schools with Harry Belafonte in 1958 when the gates of the White House were slammed in the petitioners faces. He also covered The March on Washington in 1963 where King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The third march which will be featured in the book was the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. This was the culmination of the movement using the marches as a non-violent means to protest and was instrumental in bringing about the Voting Rights Bill which President Johnson signed into law shortly there after.

On August 28th, the 50th anniversary of King’s most famous speech, Trolley Books and Budnik launched their Kickstarter campaign and quickly exceeded the necessary £10k needed. Although the initial pre-production costs will be covered by these pledges, the campaign is now looking for further pledges to hit the £30k mark to ensure post-production costs in order tor create 2,000 copies. Budnik anfd Trolley Books are now offering limited editions, a special signed cover of TIME magazine and two additional 8x10 inch gelatin silver images (Coretta Scott King and MLK, Jr. holding hands, and Rev. Frederick Shuttlesworth eulogizing the neo-martyr Jimmy Lee Jackson).

As Budnik’s photos – taken nearly half a century ago – are set to finally be published all in one place. Following up from our June 2011 interview, Dazed speaks with him about King's legacy and the production of the book.

Dazed Digital: How much input will you have in the design, layout and production of the book? 

Dan Budnik: I will be very much involved in every stage of the book's development. I'm looking forward to working with the team from Trolley. I will oversee all aspects of layout and design as well as hand-writing all the captions. This project has been 50 years in the making, and I've always had it in the back of my mind, so I have a very clear vision of what the final book will look like. Also one of the things which attracted me to working with Trolley was their uncompromising commitment to using the highest quality of paper and printing available. The subject deserves nothing less.

DD: How have the images been selected?

Marching to the Freedom Dream
Martin Luther King JR. with his brother, A.D. King, leaving the airport to rejoin the Selma to Montgomery marchers. Montgomery County - 24 March 1965

Dan Budnik: The interesting and one of the most exciting aspects of this project is that even though I have been living with these images for half a century, by going through the contact sheets, and enlarging frames which have never been printed before, we are continuing to discover images which are worthy of inclusion. I have no doubt that we will continue to add new material until the last possible moment when it's time to go to press. That's why the Kickstarter funding is so important for this project. The monies will not only go towards the printing and production of the book itself, but will allow us to fully examine and explore every frame and every moment which I documented at the time. The archive is filled with pivotal and powerful moments, and every moment and every step of the marches was an act of bravery by the participants and a stride towards freedom, equal rights and the right to vote.

DD: What still needs to be done to make this book a reality?

Dan Budnik: I would like to thank all of the people who have supported this project through Kickstarter thus far. There are now only a few days left to go in our campaign, and although our initial target of £10,000 has been reached, the actual printing and production costs will be over £30,000 so we still have a long way to go. These events half a century ago changed the world, and changed it for a better place but the process is still ongoing and society needs to be continuously reminded that the struggle for civil rights is not over. Tremendous progress has been made but prejudice and intolerance can creep back into the world especially if new generations are not taught the lessons from history. It is my hope that this book will go a small way towards keeping "The Dream" alive.

More Arts+Culture