Burk Uzzle is an American photojournalist, previously member of Magnum Photos
and president from 1979 to 1980.
Burk Uzzle has spent his life as a professional photographer. Initially grounded in documentary photography when he was the youngest contract photographer hired by Life
magazine at age 23, his work continues to reflect the human condition. For sixteen years during the 1970s and 1980s, he was an active contributor to the evolution of Magnum
and served as its President in 1979 and 1980. While affiliated with the cooperative, he produced the iconic and symbolic image of Woodstock (showing Nick Ercoline
and Bobbi Kelly
hugging), helped people grasp an understanding of the assassination and funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
, and powerfully projects comprehension of what it means to be an outsider - from Cambodian war refugees to disenfranchised populations without voice or agency to portraits of communities not identified on a roadmap. His life, philosophy, and continuing work was explored in the critically acclaimed 2020 documentary feature film F11 and Be There
by director Jethro Waters
His archive spans more than six decades and captures much of the history of analog and digital photography. His current bodies of work rest deep in issues of social justice. A dozen years ago, Uzzle returned to North Carolina and now lives and works in two-century-old industrial buildings located in downtown Wilson not far from where he was born.
Burk Uzzle’s career, like his pictures, is a nuanced composition blending American culture, individual psyches of particular places and people, and an atypical way of seeing ourselves, our values, and our community. Always respectful yet locating the poignant or quirky, the history of his narrative belongs to all of us. Initially grounded in documentary photography when he was the youngest photographer hired by LIFE
magazine at age 23, his work grew into a combination of split-second impressions reflecting the human condition during his tenure as a member of the prestigious international Magnum
cooperative founded by one of his mentors Henri Cartier-Bresson
. For 15 years, Uzzle was an active contributor to the evolution of the organization and served as its President in 1979 and 1980. During the 16 years, he was associated with Magnum
, he produced some of the most recognizable images we have of Woodstock (album cover and worldwide reproduction of its iconic couple hugging at dawn) to the assassination and funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.
to our comprehension for the experience of Cambodian war refugees.
His archive spans almost six decades. His current work rests deep in photographic appreciation of the quiet, strong, and eloquent beauty he discovers in America’s small towns and its people. It is along small back roads, limned with feelings and a surety of surprise for the heart wide open, that continue to support his understanding of how America keeps its personality out on a limb. Uzzle’s current bodies of work are artful and constructed reflections of his subjects, many of whom are African-American residents proximal to his studio in North Carolina — a 100-year-old industrial building that hosted the production of automobiles to the manufacture of caskets. Their shared layers of experience are representatives of the now. In this space, individual transcendence offers history a look at contemporary life. Conjoined with Uzzle’s fundamental appreciation for unseen characteristics, he ably captures each in a collaborative, interpretive context with his eye and his heart. On the road and between the walls, his hope is for a graphic presentation of something universal within the particular, and all the better when involving a gentle chuckle and knowing smile.