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In the past eight months, Roderick Terry has put out three books in addition to sending his exhibit of photos taken at the Million Man March around the country and holding down a day job as a District prosecutor. If that’s surprising, Terry seems to be the most surprised of all.
“I think I’ve been really, really lucky,” the 31-year-old says of the relative ease with which he has furthered his artistic endeavors. “I think it’s the topic that has made it easier than usual. Basically, what the exhibit does is help to preserve the memory of the march for many people, and I think they appreciate it.”
Call Terry a professional amateur: Though he’s been dabbling in photography for 10 years, he still sends his film out to the lab for processing. His mother bought him his first camera when he was a sophomore in high school; that and a subscription to American Photo magazine were enough to get him on his way.
While Terry had been anticipating the October ’95 march, he says he hadn’t planned on doing a book. “I went to do my own personal documentation of the march. It was the best experience of my life.” He put together the manuscript for One Million Strong in the month following the march and sent it to publishers Duncan and Duncan. They had turned down an earlier manuscript Terry had submitted, but this time they responded enthusiastically, finalizing the deal in one week.
The coffee-table book pairs black-and-white images of the march with uplifting quotations by prominent black figures, which Terry has collected over the years. Most of the photos’ greatest strength is the subjects themselves, but there are portraits, like one of a Muslim leaning in to sell the Final Call, or of a group of men sitting atop a Civil War memorial, that reveal Terry’s eye for irony and composition.
Terry sees One Million’s function this way: “As it relates to stories about black men, it seems like we are inundated with sex, drugs, and growing up in the ghetto, which in my mind is not an accurate and balanced perception of the African-American experience. I think the reason [the march photos] have been so well received is because they allow us to see ourselves as we really are and not through stereotypical prisms.”—Holly Bass