I'm lucky to be at a University that gets guest speakers pretty frequently. The most recent one was Birney Imes, a very well known photographer from Mississippi.
Birney Imes grew up in Columbus, MS when it was a small, segregated town. By the time that he graduated, he had a desire to explore the mysterious and forbidden which he found in the southern African-American community. Birney did not have a degree in photography or art but had a childhood friend who, after college, traveled around America taking photographs. So Birney decided to do the same and travel through the south taking pictures in Juke Joints.
When at a Juke Joint, he would set up his camera and lighting equipment then sit down to drink a coke and interact with the locals until he saw a good photo opportunity. Sometimes it would be two or three hours between shots, but Birney was more interested in being present and hanging out with the people rather than getting good images. At the time, Birney was just photographing what interested him, he didn't anticipate books or exhibits, but he became known by entering juried shows and portfolio review days at museums.
Birney said that he felt like he was responding to a beautiful world that had a lot of grace. He felt like a lot of people missed that side of the world. What I love about Birney's work is the perspective of interest and affection tht he photographs from.