Echo of the Spirit: A Photographer's Journey by Chester Higgins Jr. Doubleday, October 2004 $29.95, ISBN 0-385-50978-2
CHESTER HIGGINS JR. was in college when his great uncle gave him some life-altering advice: "It's important to make a mark on life," he said, "else you could very well die, undeclared."
Those familiar with Higgins's photography books, including Feeling the Spirit, know what his "mark" is: reverently showing the humanity, spirituality and culture of people of African descent. What Echo of the Spirit adds is illumination; why photography became his calling.
Part memoir, part musing, part photography book, Echo of the Spirit begins with his childhood in a small Alabama town where the threat of racial incidents was ever present. The legendary photographer P.H. Polk sparked Higgins's interest in photography while Higgins was a student at Tuskegee University, and the Civil Rights Movement nurtured his photographic vision. Dismayed by the Alabama media's portrayal of student protesters as "vicious criminals," he decided he wanted to show "positive images of decent black people."
Higgins is a good storyteller, although his narrative thread ends more or less hallway...