Historic-Memphis Photographers
Coovert, Hooks, Newman, Poland, Speer 



J. C. Coovert, the Hooks Bros, Don Newman, Clifford Poland, and William Speer,  are well respected photographers.  They represent the continuation of a long list of outstanding photographers who "covered" Memphis during the earliest years and through the Civil War- Bingham, Gebhardt, Y-Day, Newton, Balch, and Moyston.   These earlier photographers are covered on another page of this website.  They photographed the people of Memphis along with visitors to Memphis.  Coovert, Hooks, Newman, Poland, Speer, continued this tradition, along with photographing the city itself, and the historic events that helped shape the city.  Since Memphis has always had a penchant to demolish buildings and history, we owe much of what we know about the city to these photographers. 


Bingham  *              Gebhardt * Y-Day * Newton * Balch *            Moyston *

J. C. Coovert Hooks Brothers Don Newman C. H. Poland

William Speer


*The earlier photographers have comprehensive coverage on another page of this website > Click here



Click on small photos to see an enlargement

J. C. Coovert

J. C. Coverrt was the most important photographer of the Mississippi Delta in his generation.  Born in Kentucky, he moved to Memphis at the turn of the century, and established a studio where he quickly became part of the extraordinary pulse of the growing city.  He completely explored and exploited Memphis - the riverboat landing, the financial center of Front Street, the busy Main Street district, and the nearby cotton fields.  His pictures of African American workers harvesting cotton have been seen all over the world and today can still be seen at the Library of Congress in Washington D. C.


J. C. Coovert

Cabinet Photo

Cabinet Photo 1900 Little Girl Cotton Picking... Flood:  Market St 1912
Cotton Weighing... Flood:  Levee 1912 Cobblestone Landing

Memphis from the Landing     

Main-Mill 1912 Flood

Coovert Logo

Madison 1910s

Tableau 1906-10

Cobblestones C. 1900

Coovert and cannon...

1897 Camp

Cotton Series

1912 Flood


1897 Flood 1914 Cotton Boy & Girl

Memphis Landing    

     Court House Lab    

Girl & Doll    


Hooks Brothers, Henry and Robert

The Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was established by Henry A. Hooks and his brother Robert B. Hooks, and was the second oldest continuously operating black business in Memphis.  During its early years the studio was located at 164 Beale Street.  It later moved to Linden Avenue and finally to McLemore Avenue where it ceased operation after a destructive fire in 1979.  Throughout most of the 20th century, the Hooks brothers documented the history and lives of black Memphis.  They photographed Booker T. Washington, W. C. Handy, Robert R. Church, the beginning of the Memphis NAACP, graduating classes from Howe Institute, LeMoyne College and other activities of black society.

Robert & Henry

       Beale Street c. 1910

1932 graduate The Handy Orchestra 1910 Historical Marker

Young Lady

Hooks Photography    T.H. Hayes Family Magazine article W. C. Handy

Bluesman Robert Johnson

Alonzo Locke - Peabody waiters  


Adams Parade

J. E. Walker - Tri State Bank          1910 Blair T. Hunt Jug Band Circa 1940s Benjamin Hooks



    Thos Demby 1918


Don Newman

Don Newman was born in Memphis in 1919 and graduated from Tech High School in 1937.  After graduation he took a job with George Haley, a well-known Memphis commercial photographer and began a career that lasted a lifetime.  Eventually he went to work for himself as a commercial photographer.  But his interests went beyond mere advertising.  He became consumed with Downtown street scenes and the history of Memphis' monuments of the past.  He deeply regretted so much demolition of the city's past.  Because of Newman's great love of the city, we now have a record of what was once Memphis.  Today, Memphis Heritage has the rights to the Newman Collection.  Prints of his work can be ordered from their website. (Click here to go to Memphis Heritage:  Newman's Memphis)

1937 Tech Graduate

Columbian Tower Downtown Memphis Downtonw Memphis

      Downtown Memphis

Downtown Memphis Memphis Heritage

Memphis Heritage Calendar

Newman's Obit

Dodge Dealer

Scimitar Building

Madison - East

Harlem House

Clifford Poland, Sr.

Clifford Poland, Sr. documented the growth of Memphis and recorded the city's economic and social life through his photographs.  He had settled in Memphis after a tour with the Navy, and opened the first commercial studio in the area.  He also owned the first movie camera in the city and his first commercial movie was of the opening of Clarence Saunder's original Piggly Wiggly store.   Poland became know as the only photographer between St. Louis and New Orleans to take color and sound movies during his time.  His son, Clifford Poland, Jr. became a prominent Hollywood cinematographer.


      Poland Letter 1920

Lauderdale School  1919      Winter in Overton Park Zoo Exhibit Swimming

Memphis Levee - 1926 Cliff Poland Jr 1934 Union at night

Charles A. French 1915

Main Street 1920

Brooks Art Gallery

Cotton Carnival 1930

Grand Casino 1930

Stock Yard Zoo - Zebras Zoo Buffalo East Parkway

1918 First aerial Mail          1918 - Hand Painted 1919 Fireworks 1920 Co A

Trolley Interior               1933 Mid-South Fair 1930 Piggly Wiggly 1917 Recruitment

Tri State Midway 1917

Ferris Wheel 1917 Canale Display 1934 Soda Display 1934

Tri State Midway 1917


William Speer

William Speer become world famous as "The man who shot Elvis".   Speer had grown up as a fan of the black and white movie glamour shots which were displayed in the display cases of the theatre lobbies and had dreamed of working in Hollywood.  Little did he know that Hollywood would come to him.  Elvis originally came to Speer in 1954 for promotion photos which had been arranged by his manager.  That series of 12 photos turned out to be the most memorable ever shot of "the King" and are now in the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum.   It's also a little known "secret" that Hollywood stars slipped quietly into Memphis to have Speer photograph them.  William Speer died in 2006.

  William Speer 1967

Elvis Presley    Elvis Presley Eva Gabor Eva Gabor Rita Gam

Sydney Blackmer


Elvis Presley   Johnny Cash   Gladys - Vernon Presley

...and  we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the outstanding work of Memphis Photographers, William Eggleston  and Ernest C. Withers

William Eggleston  .   William Eggleston  @ Eggleston Artist Trust .  All rights reserved

Born in Memphis (1939), William Eggleston emerged in the early 1960s as a pioneer of modern color photography and he is widely credited with securing recognition for color photography as a legitimate artistic medium to display in art galleries.    There's never been any doubt that he is a "genius in color".  Today, he still lives in Memphis and is universally considered one of America's national treasures as well as one of the most important photographers in the world.   Needless to say he is indeed one of Memphis' most prized native sons.


All works:  William Eggleston  @ Eggleston Artist Trust .  All rights reserved
Ernest C. Withers .

Ernest C. Withers was a Memphis Photojournalist and one of the foremost photographers of the Civil Rights era who documented all important developments in African American culture during the 1950's and 1960's.  He covered civil rights demonstrations, African American entertainment, criminal trials, and milestone events throughout the South, but with a major emphasis on the events of Memphis, his home town.  His photographic works have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Ebony, Jet,  Newsweek, and Life Magazines.  Withers is considered one of the greatest African American photographers of all time and he is represented in the new Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and his work has been archived by the Library of Congress. *

* The Ernest Withers Collection is controlled by the Withers family who are responsible for  licensing  the use of his work.




The Historic-Memphis website does not intentionally post copyrighted photos and material without permission or credit.  On occasion a "non-credited" photo might possibly be posted because we were unable to find a name to give credit.  Because of the nature of our non-commercial, non-profit, educational website, we strongly believe that these photos would be considered "Fair Use.  We have certainly made no monetary gain, although those using this website for historic or Genealogy research have certainly profited.  If by chance, we have posted your copyrighted photo, please contact us, and we'll remove it immediately, or we'll add your credit if that's your choice.  In the past, we have found that many photographers volunteer to have their works included on these pages and we'll  also do that if you contact us with a photo that fits a particular page. 


The "Historic-Memphis" website would like to acknowledge and thank the following for their contributions which helped make this website possible:  Memphis Public Library, Memphis University Library, Memphis Law Library, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press Scimitar, Shelby County Register of Deeds, Memphis City Schools, Memphis Business Men's Club, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Memphis City Park Commission, Memphis Film Commission, Carnival Memphis, Memphis Historical Railroad Page, Memphis Heritage Inc, Beale Street Historic District, Cobblestone Historic District, Memphis Historic Districts, Vance Lauderdale Family Archives, Tennessee State Archives, Library of Congress, Kemmons Wilson Family, Richard S. Brashier, Lee Askew, George Whitworth, Woody Savage and many individuals whose assistance is acknowledged on the pages of their contributions.  Special thanks to Memphis Realtor, Joe Spake, for giving us carte blanche access to his outstanding collection of contemporary Memphis photos.

We do not have high definition  copies of the photos on these pages.  If anyone wishes to secure high definition photos,  you'll have to contact the photographer  or the collector.  (To avoid any possibility of contributing to SPAM, we do not maintain a file of email addresses for anyone who contacts us).


 Please visit the website that sponsors this page

   Historic Memphis Website