Taylor Made: The Life and Work of Reverend L.O. Taylor

Rev. L. O. Taylor
Today it takes a small cell phone to record a story, snap a picture and even make a movie.  Eighty years ago, telling that story required a lot more equipment, energy and expertise.  This exhibit takes us back to that time in the Memphis Delta Region of the American South.

The time was the mid-1920s, when a creative, artistic, curious young preacher named Rev. L. O. Taylor travelled to church services, baptisms and community events documenting the people around him.

Taylor Made provides a window for you to learn about Rev. Taylor and to see and hear his friends in their homes, businesses and churches. You won't feel the heat of the sun beating down on Rev.Taylor as he lugged his bulky Eastman View Camera No. 2-D and, later, newfangled Bolex H-16 movie camera and lacquer disc recording machine to churches and businesses.  You won't hear him ask 50 or 60 members of a congregation to stand still as he took their group picture or talk to the small child in his home as he stood alone for his first portrait.  What you will see and hear are his images and recordings that look deeply into their subjects and provide intimate portraits of African American life in the South from the mid-1920s to the early 1960s.

HEAR Gallery

TOUCH Gallery

You can help us with this project.  We want to hear from you.  You might have stood in Rev.Taylor's home to have your first picture made.  Or perhaps you were at your school or business when Rev.Taylor included you in a film, or recorded you just so you could hear your voice.  We want to hear your story.

Throughout the exhibit there are links for you to tell us your memory of Rev. Taylor or identify a person or recording.  Your comments will help us provide a true picture of Rev. Taylor and his role in documenting his community. 

The Taylor Collection is part of the Center for Southern Folklore's Multimedia Archives which preserves and digitizes the images and voices we have recorded and collected over the last 37 years.  We plan to produce more on line exhibits showcasing Rev. Taylor and many other photographers, artists, musicians, talkers and cooks whose work defines our region.  We hope these exhibits provide a window for men and women across the globe to learn about the music, culture, arts and rhythms of the Memphis Delta region.


Taylor Made would not be possible without the generous support of local and national foundations and agencies. The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, The Plough Foundation, The Grammy Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts have provided  the resources to digitize and organize our Multimedia Archives. The National Park Service's Save America's Treasures grant administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities insures the preservation of the Rev. L.O. Taylor Collection and provides the resources for the Center to make exhibits like this available for people to learn about Rev. Taylor and his important legacy.

Click an image above to open a gallery or get information.




Judy Peiser
Executive Producer
May, 2009

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