Arts and Culture Community

Bud Dorsey has documented life in West Louisville through his photographs for more than half a century. Much of his work appeared in the newspaper, The Louisville Defender, where he worked for over 20 years.

Working with the Louisville Story Program, Dorsey has complied many of his photographs into the book titled, “Available Light.” I spoke with Dorsey about the project and about his work. You can hear our conversation in the player above.

On his interest in photography at an early age:

“I was fascinated by books, “National Geographic,” “Life.” As I tell everyone, at 5 I could read pretty good but I was mostly interested in pictures that were in books.”

On how his experience in the Navy helped lead him to photography:

“That was one of my reasons why I joined the Navy, to see the world because I wanted to shoot photographs. I mean, a little kid from Louisville, Kentucky, shooting pictures of far away places like Italy, France, Africa, South America. So it started when I was in the Navy and I wanted to be a Navy photographer, which didn’t pan out too good, but it started back in the ’60s. And once I was discharged — honorably discharged — from the United States Navy, I continued that journey to become a photojournalist.”

On why he wanted to document life in West Louisville:

“I read the [Courier-Journal] and I just wasn’t seeing enough of — being seen — the way I saw it, though my eyes. The celebrations we used to have, the friendships, the fellowships, all of that was going on but really, the stigma was there even then, even like today. Like the violence that’s going on, but there’s some good things happening in West Louisville. Good people are in West Louisville, even today. And I retired from the Defender in 2002. But I’m still out there trying to show the love, the friendships, everything that goes on in the rest of the community as far as families, happens in West Louisville.

“We have everything except economic empowerment, but we have everything that goes on in other parts of the community and I try to show that. I try to show that through my photographs.”

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Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for WFPL News.