Memphis-area church honors Tyre Nichols by exhibiting his photography

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Feb 16, 2023

Tyre Nichols, 29, who died at the hands of Memphis police on Jan. 10, was an aspiring photographer. An Episcopal church in Germantown, Tennessee, is honoring Nichols by displaying eight of his photos. Photo: Screenshot of Nichols’ website

[Episcopal News Service] St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, Tennessee, a Memphis suburb, is honoring the life of Tyre Nichols by displaying eight of his photos in the parish’s art gallery.

The exhibit, entitled “Through Tyre Nichols’ Eyes,” will be on display in the main hallway between the narthex and parish hall through Feb. 28.

The goal of the exhibit is “to honor Tyre as a person,” the church’s rector, the Rev. Dorothy Sanders Wells, told Episcopal News Service, and to help people see him as more than just a victim. “We wanted to show the lens through which he saw the world.”

Nichols, who was 29, died on Jan. 10 after being severely beaten three days earlier by Memphis Police Department officers who had pulled him over for a traffic stop. His death sparked an outcry across the country against police violence.

The exhibit, entitled “Through Tyre Nichols’ Eyes,” will be on display in the main hallway between the narthex and parish hall at St. George’s Episcopal Church through Feb. 28. Photo: Dorothy Sanders Wells

The eight photos in St. George’s exhibit were among the many images Nichols had posted on his photography website. Wells said the church had the photos printed and framed, and they plan to give them to Nichols’ family after the exhibit closes.

In looking at the images on Nichols’ website, Wells said she was struck by how many bridges he included, so seven of the eight pieces in the exhibit are of bridges. But besides helping people see these everyday structures through Nichols’ own eyes, she hopes those images will call others “to think about how they might be bridges to understanding, peace and justice.”

The eighth photo depicts the statue of Tom Lee that stands by the Mississippi River in a park named for him. Lee, a Black man who in 1925 was working for a company repairing levees along the river, is credited with saving 32 people after their boat capsized. Using his own small boat, he pulled people out of the cold water and deposited them on a nearby sandbar until he couldn’t reach anyone else. Almost 30 people drowned.

It was important to include that photo in the exhibit, Wells said, because it poses a question almost 100 years after Lee’s actions. “Where was Tyre’s Tom Lee that night? Where was the one person who could say, ‘We can’t do this’?”

In a statement about Nichols’ death issued by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry on Jan. 28, he also noted that no one on the scene had offered any aid to Nichols the night he was beaten. “Not one Good Samaritan,” Curry wrote. He added, “Just throwing up our hands in despair is not an option lest we leave a brother, a sister, a sibling on the side of the road again. No, let more Good Samaritans arise so that Tyre Nichols’ death will not be in vain.”

St. George’s is open on weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 3 p.m.

–Melodie Woerman is a freelance writer and former director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas.