Chris Harris rare photos answer the call

What do Jerry Lee Lewis and one of the leading civil-rights organizations in the South have in common?

The answer is Chris Harris, professor of photography in MTSU’s Department of Electronic Media.

Jerry Lee Lewis playing piano with cousins Mickey Gilley (left) and Jimmy Swaggart. Photo by Chris Harris.

Jerry Lee Lewis playing piano with cousins Mickey Gilley (left) and Jimmy Swaggart. Photo by Chris Harris.

When Rick Bragg wrote the new Jerry Lee Lewis biography, Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, he needed a photograph showing Jerry Lee with his two famous cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart. After searching through thousands of photographs of the famous rock ’n’ roller, it was Harris who had the exclusive pictures. Harris had spent several days for People Magazine following “The Killer” around Baton Rouge and the local environs in the early ‘80s.

Those at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, found themselves in a similar position while completing a history book on the law center’s founder, Morris Dees. The publisher needed a photograph of the youngest person ever to be sentenced to death in the United States, a 15-year-old name Johnny Ross. Once again, Harris had in his possession a photograph he had taken of the young Ross, standing outside a solitary confinement cell on Death Row at Angola Prison.

Johnny Ross, the youngest person to be sentenced to death in the United States, on Death Row in Angola Prison, Louisiana. Photo by Chris Harris.

Johnny Ross, the youngest person to be sentenced to death in the United States, on Death Row in Angola Prison, Louisiana. Photo by Chris Harris.

“It wasn’t that hard to get into the prison. All I did was tell the guard I was there to photograph the warden,” Harris said. “From there I got ‘lost’ on the way to the warden’s office and instead told the guard I needed to photograph Death Row. Actually the hard part was leaving prison.”

Harris teaches Photojournalism, Visual Journalism Production, Photoshop, and Ethics and Law for Visual Communicators. For more information about Chris Harris’ photographs, visit these sites:

http://www.ChristopherRHarris.com
http://www.SouthernFinePrints.com

 

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