Photographer Seamans: Lifetime Achievement Award winner | Rock Candy

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Photographer Seamans: Lifetime Achievement Award winner

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Seamans photograph of combines en route to the American Agriculture Movements rally in Washington, D.C., in 1978
  • Seamans' photograph of combines cotton pickers en route to the American Agriculture Movement's rally in Washington, D.C., in 1978

The Arkansas Arts Council named the winners of the 2013 Governors Awards for artists and art supporters last week, with the Lifetime Achievement Award going to Billie Seamans, 92, of McGehee, for his career in photography.

To be honored with a dinner along with Seamans are Bob Ford and Amy Herzberg of Fayetteville, Arts Community Development Award winners; Paul Leopoulos of the Thea Foundation, the Arts in Education Award winner; Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates and Woodyard, the Corporate Sponsorship Award winners; Paula Morell, host of Starving Artist Cafe's Tales from the South radio show, the Folklife Award winner; Arkansas Repertory Theater producing director Robert Hupp, the Individual Artist Award winner; Lee and Dale Ronnel, the Patron Award winners, and retired art teacher Farrell Ford of Arkadelphia, the Judge's Special Recognition Award winner.

Here's more information about Seamans from the Arts Council:

Billie Seamans was born on May 22, 1921, and has lived most of his life in McGehee where, at the age of 92, he continues to view the world around him with clear interest and wonder.

After his brother Glenn died in the military during World War II, Billie was drafted and served in the Army Air Force. It was there that he learned photography and has a “bird’s-eye view” from the ball turret of a B17 bomber with the 301st Bomber Group. He completed 50 missions and returned to McGehee in 1944. He met his future wife, Dorothy Barrett of Selma, Ark., and they had three sons: Jerry, Harry and Bill. The couple recently celebrated 69 years of marriage.

Soon after the war, with benefits from the G.I. Bill, Billie entered Arkansas A&M College in Monticello and honed his photography skills under the tutelage of Mrs. Drummond, a professional photographer in McGehee.

In 1949 Billie bought his first camera. It was an 8 x 10 “view” camera, which produced high-quality pictures from 8 x 10 negatives. He did not have a car or a studio, so he made appointments by telephone and walked to each house or business to photograph his subjects. He then developed the photographs in the small darkroom that he built in the back yard behind the apartment in which he and Dorothy and their growing family lived. He was paid one dollar for each photograph. In the 1950s, he was hired by International Harvester to photograph farm equipment. That job led to full-time employment with the company and an offer to move his family to Chicago, but Billie chose to remain in McGehee.

He continued his photography as a profession and maintained a successful business until the age of 87. During those years he became active in the Arkansas Professional Photographer’s Association (APPA) and served as its president in 1977. He was recognized over the years with several state awards from APPA, and in 1985 one of his photographs was a national winner.

As a participant in the Arkansas Delta Oral History Project, which is affiliated with the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville under the direction of Dr. David Joliff, Billie was interviewed last year by Yogi Denton’s Advanced Placement students at McGehee High School. They discovered that he had hundreds of photographs that tell the history and stories of his experience in Delta life. With the help of Brandi Anthony’s EAST Initiative Lab class and Kem Haddock’s Photography I class the project has been expanded.

Many of the black-and-white images that recorded the history of the region from the main street of McGehee to the cotton farms of the rich Delta soil are being catalogued by those students. Some of those photographs have been exhibited at several community events, and now a book is in progress about Billie and his impact in the Delta. It is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2013.

Billie continues to maintain storage of his photographs and negatives dating back to WWII. There are hundreds of them. The McGehee High School students continue to archive the negatives and to preserve them for the future.

Tags: , , , , ,

Sign up for the Daily Update email


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Philip Mann to leave symphony after 2018-19 season

    The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra announced in a press release today that the next season of the symphony will be Maestro Philip Mann's last. The ASO will give Mann the title of "Music Director Laureate" and hopes that "Mann will be able to continue his highly successful relationship with the ASO as he grows his international conducting presence and broadens his role within classical music."
    • May 24, 2018
  • 'The Beyond,' works by O'Keeffe and others, to open at Crystal Bridges

    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art goes above and into "The Beyond" with an exhibition of 36 works by Georgia O'Keeffe spanning her career and works by contemporary artists whose sensibilities hearken to O'Keeffe's. The show opens Saturday, May 26.
    • May 24, 2018
  • The Delta Exhibition opens at the Arts Center

    Plus, much more.
    • May 24, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Coming Monday: Little Rock Black Restaurant Week

    MoTown Monday is Ceci's Chicken and Waffles. Tasty Tuesday is Sims BBQ and Brewster's Soul Food Cafe. Wing Wednesday is Chicken King and Chicken Wangs. Soul Food Thursday is Lindsey's BBQ and Hospitality House and Food Truck Festival Friday is @station801. It's the first Black Restaurant Week.
    • Mar 8, 2017
  • New music from Isaac Alexander

    New music from Isaac Alexander.
    • Jul 14, 2017
  • No Small Talk Ep. 8: Katy Henriksen, Springs Arts preview

    A packed episode this week of "No Small Talk": a chat with Katy Henriksen, from Of Note on KUAF; Stephanie Smittle breaks down the Spring Arts issue; and we finish up with just a tiny bit of Oscar chatter.
    • Mar 9, 2018

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation