Thursday, October 16, 2014

brewed in Mississippi

Brickhouse Bar & Grill
He talks fast and believes hard. I respect that but can hardly keep up typing it. The notes I am gathering are scattered, but what I know is he graduated from Enterprise High School in 1976. During those years he worked the yearbook as a photographer and an editor. He played football as well. Back then most every male did.

I think at that time (and still today) Ken Flynt thought he could do just about anything. Maybe that's why he was thinking that being a walk-on to a junior college football team was feasible though he soon found out his size made him more of a punching bag. Still he stuck with it.

Until one day he ran off the field after practice and there was this man standing there in a suit. In a very Mississippi blues way I like to think of this scene as Robert Johnson at the crossroads. Anyway, it wasn't the devil. It was a man who asked, Are you Ken Flynt?

"Yes sir," Ken said and tried to quickly think back on what he might have done the night before or the previous week.

Now all one can imagine is that Ken Flynt had made sure his name was known. Today we know that suited man offered him a full scholarship and forty hours worth of work not as a football player but as a guy that would take over the newspaper and yearbook. Back in those days Ken was shooting in black and white and printing the photos in his darkroom. Photography was what paid for him to go to college but not something in which he was majoring.

Taking photographs for Ken was a hobby and how he could make money but not earn a livelihood. His focus at university was science and he thought he'd go into dentistry. Outside of class he tended a bar at a discotheque called Cash McCool's and took photographs at the High Hat Club during an era affectionately termed "The Chitlin' Circuit". At one time before a house burning Flynt had in his possession photographs he took of Ike and Tina Turner, BB King and Otis Redding among others.

Today as we sit outside a bar he partly owns Ken Flynt has finally come to terms with the fact he was always supposed to be doing this. Life has taken him all over the country and living out of a suitcase was how he did it. That is until he returned to Mississippi and began working on a legendary magazine called Legends, a recipient two years running of the Governor's Award.

What Ken says about the magazine is, "The photographs you'll find in Legends typically have a musician standing with a guitar in one hand and a Grammy in the other. Or a paintbrush. It celebrates the reason people come to Mississippi. It is for our music and our culture. That is what is so great about this state."

In the upcoming art show Flynt will exhibit two works revealing to us what he considers to be great about Mississippi. Both are, of course, exceptional but I first fell in love with the one he says he took driving back from a blues festival in Helena. It only looks black and white. The photograph was taken and processed in color and he says it is accurate to what he saw that day.

It was sleeting when he noticed the barn, pulled off the long stretch of highway and took the photograph from his truck.

Today I am grateful that Ken Flynt is out there with a camera.

Anyone from this part of the world would look at his work and say, I think I've been there before.

Simply beautiful, I think.

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