Clark family photographs to be featured in exhibition at UNT on the Square

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 15:13

What: "The Clark Family Photography Exhibition – Pictures That Tell a Story," an exhibition of photographs from Joe and Junebug Clark.

When: June 1 (Monday) – July 22 (Wednesday)

Where: UNT on the Square, 109 N. Elm St., Denton

Hours: 9 a.m. - noon and 1 - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday, with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturdays

Cost: Free

More: A reception will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 5 (Friday). The event is sponsored by the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts, the arm of the University of North Texas that promotes artistic and creative expression and runs UNT on the Square, in cooperation with the Mayborn School of Journalism.

DENTON, Texas (UNT) – The works of acclaimed photographer Joe "The Hillbilly Snapshooter" Clark and his son Junebug -- which have been featured in Life and National Geographic magazines and Jack Daniel's Distillery advertisements -- will be on display June 1 (Monday) - July 22 (Wednesday) at UNT on the Square.

The theme of the exhibition is "pictures that tell a story."

"That's been our tagline forever," said Junebug Clark, a consultant for the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. "My dad believed photography was given a bad rap because some people pawned it off an imitation of art. He thought photography was more a kin to literature. Pictures tell a story."

Take their black and white pictures that feature the people and landscapes of Cumberland Gap, part of the Appalachian Mountains. Joe Clark shot "Uncle Alex Cline, The Blacksmith," making a wagon wheel, and townspeople attending a "Baptising in Olde Towne Creek." Junebug Clark captured a "Mennonite mother and children looking out of their front door."

Fifty pictures, from Junebug Clark's private collection and seen in public for the first time, are just several of the 2 million photographs taken by the Clarks that were donated to UNT Libraries in 2011 by Junebug Clark and his wife Kay and former Jack Daniel's executive vice president Art Hancock and his wife Charlotte. UNT Libraries is currently curating, digitizing and archiving the photographs.

The Institute for the Advancement of the Arts, the arm of UNT that promotes artistic and creative expression and runs UNT on the Square, invited Junebug Clark to present the exhibition in cooperation with the Mayborn School of Journalism.

The exhibition also will include artifacts -- such as the cameras they used and the straw hat Joe Clark frequently wore.

"I have to bring that out," Junebug Clark said.

Joe Clark grew up in Tennessee and never had more than a fourth grade education. He moved to Detroit to look for a job and ended up working as a night watchman in J.L. Hudson's department store, where a colleague gave him a camera.

In 1940, a Life magazine editor dropped by and insisted on seeing his pictures from a mountain funeral -- even writing to him four times. Joe Clark had 14 out of the 36 pictures he took published in the magazine.

He soon decided to quit work and take up photography. He shot for Life, National Geographic, Look and Newsweek and Joe and Junebug Clark photographed Jack Daniel's ads for 38 years.

Junebug Clark, who got his first camera at age 3, also pursued photography as a career, even serving as a Marines Corps photographer. His photograph of his first cousin's first haircut appeared in Look magazine's 20th anniversary issue.

"I felt that I finally trumped my dad on this one," he said. "I was about six at the time."

Since 1971, he has photographed for Cessna Aircraft Company, Jack Daniel's Distillery, Federal Mogul Corporation, Eli Lilly and Company, Budweiser, Time, Life, Newsweek and National Geographic.

His photographs include a cattle drive in Wyoming in the snow -- "We had to get there by horseback" -- and a cropduster flying in the field -- "They made me wear a parachute and here we were racing about a hundred feet above the ground."

"Every picture tells a story and there's a story behind every picture," he said. "I always love the challenge of doing something a little bit better and a little bit different on each assignment. It's so much fun."

Now at the Mayborn, Junebug Clark takes pictures for the school, lectures to photojournalism and journalism classes and assists students. He hopes to pass on the same enthusiasm for his vocation.

"I hear students usually say they 'have a passion for photography.' It's more than a passion. It's an overwhelming urge to capture and communicate with pictures."

UNT News Service
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