Who is Bud Dorsey?
Bud Dorsey is West Louisville's most iconic living photographer. As a young boy, he studied the photographs in the Louisville Defender and Courier-Journal newspapers and began dreaming of one day getting photographs of his own in print. Then a family member gave him his first camera, and he began learning through trial and error and by persuading local photographers to give him tutorials. For example, Arthur Evans, Jr., the owner of a local portrait studio in the Russell neighborhood, showed Bud how to develop film in exchange for his sweeping the floors and doing other odd jobs around the shop.
Upon graduating from Shawnee High School and serving in the Navy, Bud returned home and took a job at American Synthetic Rubber Company in 1964. For seventeen years, he worked at American Synthetic while taking photographs on the side and selling images to the Defender and the Courier-Journal and later to national publications such as the iconic JET magazine. His photos of Louisville models were chosen as centerfolds for about a dozen issues of JET.
After American Synthetic’s mass layoffs in 1981, Bud joined the staff of the Defender as its sole full-time photojournalist. Now able to be out documenting the community he cared about so deeply on a full-time basis, he became more prolific than ever. In the 20+ years Bud held that position, no one documented life in Louisville--especially within the Black community--more richly than he did. He did it all with modest tools: unremarkable cameras, no lighting equipment, limited supplies of film, and a tiny, simple darkroom, He retired as one of the longest-tenured staff photographers in the storied history of the Defender.
To this day, Bud is seemingly at every event in West Louisville—cultural showcases, church functions, protests, civic meetings, athletic events, crime scenes, etc.—while also making time to photograph nature and man-made structures. He finds almost everything interesting, and as a result his body of work represents an impressively rich portrait of life in Louisville over the years.
What is this book?
The Louisville Story Program has collaborated closely with Mr. Dorsey to develop this book, his first professionally published photography book. He had been storing prints, negatives, and slides in shoe boxes, plastic shopping bags, and other makeshift storage containers in his home. Over the course of fifteen months, the Louisville Story Program scanned over 1,000 of those images for Mr. Dorsey, worked with Mr. Dorsey to record context for those images when possible, and collaborated with him to develop about 100 pages of first-person narrative about his life and work. Together we edited all of this down into the book Available Light.
The photographs in Available Light show us life in Louisville as many of us have never seen it before. Bud teaches us how to look at our community: with love, curiosity, respect, nuance, concern, playfulness, hope, heartbreak, and pride. Available Light is a love letter to Louisville, crafted outside of mainstream arts and media worlds over the course of decades by a man who cares and has always there to bear witness.
This is the first release from a larger project aiming to honor the legacies of Black photographers who worked in Louisville in the 20th century.
How far along is the project?
After working closely with Bud Dorsey for well over a year, we are extremely close to finalizing the book. Almost all of the content has been finalized, and the book design process is underway. If this Kickstarter campaign is successful, we are on track to publish Available Light on August 24. We are also working with the curatorial staff at the Muhammad Ali Center to develop an exhibit of Mr. Dorsey's photographs that will hang in one of the Ali Center's galleries from August 2017 to January 2018.
Why do we need $10,000?
We believe it is important to honor the work of our authors with high production quality. The funds we raise through Kickstarter will cover the costs of design, printing and freight for the first edition of Available Light. This 11" x 11" hardcover book will be professionally designed and printed (offset printing, not digital) on high-quality paper, with scratch-resistant nylon lamination cover and some classy debossing on the cover. Revenue from future book sales will support the efforts of more people whose voices are often unheard as they partner with the Louisville Story Program to develop books, exhibits, and radio stories about their lives and communities.
What is the Louisville Story Program?
The Louisville Story Program is a nonprofit that strengthens community by amplifying unheard voices and untold stories. We partner closely with Louisville residents whose voices are often unheard to develop books, exhibits, radio stories, and more about their lives and neighborhoods. According to Nikky Finney, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry, "The Louisville Story Program is challenging the arena of what a book is and what a book can do and where books matter in our communities." Available Light is our fourth book project. Our first book, Our Shawnee, was the best-selling book in Louisville in 2014 and has been praised by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as "an inspiring story of perseverance." Our second book, I Said Bang!: A History of the Dirt Bowl, the Crown Jewel of the Most Basketball-Obsessed City in America, was published in February 2016 and has enjoyed an enthusiastic response from the Louisville community. It's the first book ever in which the members of a city's playground basketball community have developed a book that documents the richness of that community and its history. Our third book project, We Can Hear You Just Fine: Clarifications from the Kentucky School for the Blind, resulted in the nation's first professionally published book written by blind and visually impaired teenagers.
Risks and challenges
In theory, an unforeseen circumstance could make it more challenging for Mr. Dorsey or our staff or our book designer to complete the book on our current timeline. This seems highly unlikely at this point based on everyone's progress and strong commitment to the work. However, if it were to happen, it might delay the publication date. This is our fourth book project, and so far we have never had to delay a book's publication date after announcing it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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