March 1, 2012
Beyond Baptism, Jim Lo Scalzo’s Baltimore Photo Reaches all the Way to Birmingham
Captured by Jim Lo Scalzo and honored with second place in the Feature category of the White House News Photographers Association awards, this photo shows members of Baltimore’s United House of Prayer For All People during a baptism ceremony.
What makes the photo so poignant and evocative, however, is that the ritual is being performed with a firehose (see the water spray just above the heads middle-left). Mindful of Bull Conner and the Birmingham civil rights demonstrations, the water hose — as many of us hold in our mind’s eye from images like this famous photo by Charles Moore — was used as a violent instrument of racial repression.
A quality that makes photojournalism so powerful is how one image can contain so many layers of meaning. As a slice of contemporary culture, Jim’s photo is awash in elegance. As its subtlety calls to history, however, the photo speaks that much more deeply to regeneration and the affirmation of faith.
PHOTOGRAPH by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA