Finally Developed: Frank Couch reveals unpublished Civil Rights photos in new exhibit

By: Falyn Page

 Walk, look, take in, move on. Time and time again, this is the typical “exhibit” routine. Walk in, scan the room, find something cool, in take that, and then move on.

Entering into the Civil Rights Exhibit in The Birmingham News building, a visitor might expect nothing different. Yet one look aroundFrank Couch and history hops out of each frame.

In one frame,  three African-American teens, at a diner, smiling from ear to ear, enjoying each other’s presence. Typical photo. But upon further inspection, something very vital to the significance of the photo jumps out.

In the background of the picture, sits two caucasian waiters. With furrowed brows and angered faces, the waiters refuse to serve the African-American teens. This photo is a reflection of what Frank Couch’s exhibit is all about.

Born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., Couch is a multimedia journalist for Alabama Media Group and a photojournalist for The Birmingham News.  His passion for photography began at a very young age with sibling rivalry.

As a young boy scout, he frequently went camping with his father and older brother. While camping, his father would always encourage the two to take pictures, which became a competition to see who could take the best pictures. His older brother would always win, but this kick-started his love for photography.

FrankCouch2Couch said he “enjoys the pleasure pictures bring people.”  He believes a photographer is a “fly on the wall” ready to capture every vital moment worth talking about.

His most recent project is the Civil Rights Exhibit for the Birmingham News. He said that this exhibit is very close to his heart because it is a great portrayal of his city’s history. He believes that “the people in Birmingham need to know their past” in order to fully grow and move forth for the future.

Couch said that one of the best parts of putting together the exhibit was  going back into the archives knowing that the truth is better than anything that could possibly be made up.

The photos in this exhibit were never published during the civil rights era.  They were captured because the photographers knew it was important enough to seize, but felt it wasn’t important enough to talk about.

So, that’s what Couch strived to achieve through this exhibit.  Couch believes that “publishing the unpublished” is very important for our society. He also said that the photographers during that time period had the “nothing happened” mindset, which is why many of the photos were left on the cutting floor.

“People must know where they came from,” he explained.

Click here to view a traveling exhibit of pictures from 1963!

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