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    Photo by Bud Dorsey

    This month, the Louisville Story Program will release its fourth publication, Available Light, which contains 40-plus years of images by longtime west Louisville photographer Bud Dorsey. For 21 years Dorsey was the only full-time photographer for the Louisville Defender newspaper, which focuses on the West End. “There are a few really incredible African-American photographers from Louisville, from the era of black-and-white photography, whose legacies are in danger because their work isn’t archived anywhere,” says Story Program founder Darcy Thompson. (Through writing and oral-history workshops, the Louisville Story Program trains residents to tell their stories themselves. Past books have been about the Dirt Bowl streetball tournament, the Kentucky School for the Blind and the lives of students from Shawnee High School.)

    Dorsey, 76, has been a photographer since he was a young man. “I’ve always wanted to be an artist,” he says. “I just figured I could get a scene captured faster with photography.” His “fly-on-the-wall” technique is always going for a candid shot. Using his “five years out of date” Nikon D300S, Dorsey still photographs the West End, though he has recently started taking more wildlife and nature photos. “Back in the early ’70s, I made the decision that I would document life in west Louisville — the good, the bad and the ugly,” he says. “It’s changed from a professional, tight-knit community, with black doctors and black professionals, into a war zone. As people got bigger and better jobs with these giant companies like GE and Ford, all these professionals moved east and south.

    “Young people nowadays are claiming certain areas and turfs and are killing over these places where they don’t own a brick,” he adds. Dorsey is sick of shooting crime. “I’m tired of hearing the mothers of dead ones screaming,” he says. “As we speak, as of this moment, west Louisville is still on the decline. We need an economic shot in the arm to get west Louisville back on track.”

    Available Light will be the first book in a series that aims to archive photos from black Louisville photographers. “I try to shoot photographs that cover this: unity,” Dorsey says. “We’re one big family in Louisville, and west Louisville in particular. That’s what I try to show.”

    This originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here.

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