Born in 1949 in Plymouth, North Carolina, Larry H. Spruill was educated in the Mount Vernon Schools and SUNY at Stony Brook. He is a scholar, educator, theologian, and community activist. His photographs chronicle a search for new perspectives and vantage pooints for understanding humanity. For thirty years, he quietly photographed his life and world.
With diverse paths to choose, Dr. Spruill embraced his community with its socio-economic challenges over the comfort and advantages of the university. His academic and dedagogical achievements are public record and have stood the test of time. Before anyone knew him as a photographer, his scholarly work on American photojournalism was used in award-winning deocmentaries and a Puliter Prize and other historical publications. He chose to be a member of the academy without an institutional assignment. His commitment to serving small communities with doctoal training has been recognized as an unusual sacrifice in our day. Dr. Spruill has become a global citizen, commanding the attention of influential intellectuals, artists, religious and political figures.
For decades, his private photographs were shared with family, friends, and local photographers and artists. Beyond the Rivers of Ethiopia is a sample of his travel portfolio. The callendar allows everyone who desires – to begin to see the world as he does.
He says, “Art like love is devine. I am created in the image of the God. As a photographer, I make images of God’s creation. I am like God. I have the ability to imagine and bring the vision to artistic life. I am an artist and Christian. My faith also governs how I see the world. There are art critics who think there is no such creature as a modern Christian artist. Being a Christian does not limit my creative expression. I am working on visualizing my faith in ways that non-Christians can appreciate. In fact, my faith opens me up for even greater creativity. Photographing God’s people, places and things allows me to better understand the sacred and divine. Only the scriptures support the divine3 power and perfection of nature. Images and scripture help me to do that.
For example, I photogrphed beautiful sunsets on the Zambezi River near the misty roar of Musiotunya, “Smoke with thunder,” a.k.a., Victoria Falls. I remember the perpetual rainbow of hope over the Falls. This noisy, awesome wonder of the world declared itself the site of the very presence of God. I was convinced God is the Master Artist. My wel-exposed photographs were just low resolutin copies of the originals. They were not works of art but record shots. There were numerous Psalms that described the natural handiwork of God.
I am an observer, a travelling visual griot (West Afrian storyteller). I make pictures of peopl in their world as I encounter them. They are anonymous people with real lives. I am attracted to them because they are often marginal. They are not passing through my life. I am walking on the edge of their complex and often troubled existence. I established person al contact with some of them, many I did not. I hope people see and feel the empathy in my pictures. I want viewers to care in some way about the people I photograph. I want them to experience the storyline. I photographed people through the lens of my soul. Compassion is at the heart of ‘concerned’ photographers. I pray that I am such a photographer.”
Dr. Spruill is married to Doris. They have three children, Michael, Hassain, and Miriam and four grandchildren. He is currently writing a novel about the early African presence in Westchester County, New York.