Victor McTeer, Professional Photographer
Victor McTeer, Retired Civil Rights Attorney, Professional Photographer.
by Cheryl Bryan
Residents of the Mississippi Delta aren’t used to seeing “Victor McTeer, Professional Photographer.” They are more likely to know him as “Attorney at Law,” “Philanthropist,” or in recent years, “the father of Heather McTeer Hudson, Mayor of Greenville.”
How did this well-known attorney make the transition to photography? Is there a connection between his devotion to civil and legal rights and his interest in capturing the world and its people with a camera?
Alongside his dedication to human rights and his family, McTeer has two other passions: sailing and photography. “Master” of a 42-foot yacht named “Salvation,” which he sails off the shores of Key West, Florida, McTeer explains in his own words his love for the sea, and why sailing and photography are often mutually exclusive.
“Few venues are more beautiful than the offshore sea on a clear dawn or dusk aboard our boat under sail. Unfortunately, when I sail, I have little time to do anything but take my watch, be sure all is secure and that all are safe. Frankly sometimes, the sights are so amazing and unique offshore that I have been too awestruck to even try to take a picture.”
McTeer’s love for photography began with his mother’s gift of a “small Kodak Box camera…. My home has tons of pictures of family, friends, and visitors and very few of me. Someone had to take the picture – and it was always me.”
A Lawyer’s Purpose
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, McTeer first visited the Delta in the summer of 1969 “as part of a movement to assure African Americans the precious rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.” Forgoing a promising football career, he chose instead to study at Rutgers Law School, returning to the Delta in 1972. In his capacity as civil rights lawyer he worked on hundreds of cases involving voting rights, employment and housing discrimination and Constitutional law, eventually moving into other areas of law and representing even old adversaries, including the State of Mississippi.
Recognition for his stellar law career includes awards from Operation PUSH, The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and, in 1995, the Mississippi Chief Justice Award from the Mississippi Supreme Court for “a lifetime of public service to the people of the State of Mississippi.”
McTeer and his wife Dee continue to give back to the Delta by funding annual two-year scholarships to “’McTeer Scholars,’ chosen for their academic achievements and commitment to return to the Delta after graduation from college.”
A Photographer’s Passion
When he retired from his law practice in 2009, McTeer was already taking photography classes in Key West. Why Key West? “The photographic training available in Key West is enhanced by the inherent beauty of the Florida Keys and the nurturing influence of the photographic community of the area.”
His family fully supports his decision to become a professional photographer. “My wife, daughter and son [Marcus, a computer consultant residing in Baltimore, Maryland] have been victims of my photographic excesses for decades. I think they are pleased that I can officially bother other people now that I’m doing this for a living. And they seem very pleased that my work is being so well received.”
At McTeer’s website, www.victormcteerphotography.com, you catch a glimpse of his excitement and wonder about the world and its people. In his own words, “The travel section provides a spectrum of scenes – bullfights in Barcelona, leopards at play in the bush of South Africa… panoramic views of Mt. St. Helens and the Grand Canyon…the Ferris wheel called the London Eye in that great city and the iconic Eiffel Tower of Paris. I hope that even if people haven’t had the chance to visit Venice, Barcelona, Hong Kong or Cape Town, my camera will give them a chance to envision scenes from the location.
“The portrait section of the site is a testament to my love of people. I hope that people will…see their friends and neighbors as they want to be seen – not the down and out image that often is sought after in our part of the world.
“I love interior design. A national design firm who redecorated our home in Key West wanted pictures for an advertising website. To their surprise, I asked them for the job. I sent them some shots, and I got the job. With that start, I began working in interior design photography in South Florida and Destin. I would love the opportunity to work with interior designers and decorators here in the Delta.
“I enjoy taking entertainment and concert pictures at juke joints and other dark light sites in the Delta… pictures of BB King performing with Keb Mo, Robert Cray and Bobby Bland and the unforgettable KoKo Taylor performing her last concert at the Mississippi Delta Blues Festival… the unnerving sight of a black street performer being chained by a laughing all-white crowd in Mallory Square in Key West Florida where he nightly escapes to their cheers and applause.”
Beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 21, at the Hob Nob in Leland, you’ll have a chance to view McTeer’s photographs up close. He’ll be displaying portraits as well as travel and landscape scenes. Clear a wall at home for one of his magnificent photos. He’ll be offering travel scenes and landscapes for sale, in sizes from 3-inch by 5-inch to 2-feet by 3-feet and everything in between.
A Human Perspective
“I know that some of my old friends as well as potential clients who know my history are surprised that I would leave a successful legal career to reinvent myself as a photographer, but after almost 40 years at the bar, it’s time that I do what I want to do in exactly the manner that I want to do it.
“As a trial lawyer, I was devoted to accurately depicting the integrity and honesty, successes and failures of the people of this region. My experiences here have given me naïve faith in the power of people to change their lives for the better. Perhaps my passion for human rights and fundamental fairness has helped forge a passion for humankind that requires me to visualize the beauty, integrity and honesty in all the people I touch with my camera.”