The Lorraine Motel in Memphis

Motel of History

Lorraine Motel in Memphis

During the middle 1900s, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, was host to all sorts of famous names. The guest list over the years included music stars, athletes, and more. Among those who stayed there during visits to Memphis were Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The last name in that list is the one that will forever be associated with the Lorraine Motel, however. On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated while standing on the balcony outside his room, just above where the white car is parked off in the distance of this photo. By the time I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, the motel had become a place of low-income housing. Rooms 306 and 307 were no longer rented out but instead were kept as a memorial to Dr. King.

From Motel to Museum

But then the Lorraine Motel got a new lease on life, starting in the late 1980s. The motel was converted to the National Civil Rights Museum, which opened in 1991. The museum kept some of the original motel structure while adding on several other areas. The National Civil Rights Museum underwent a major renovation beginning in 2012, and that renovation was completed in 2014.

The Lorraine Motel is still remembered because of its connection with the death of Martin Luther King, but now in a much better way. It is now a reminder of those who struggled and what they were up against during some dark times in our nation’s history. While the Lorraine still is not necessarily a place often associated with fun, it now has a much more positive purpose, reminding some and inspiring others.

Personally, I liked how they kept much of the motel’s facade intact, at least on this side of the building. From this angle, at the far end from the museum entrance past the parked cars, the Lorraine looks much like it looked for all those years when the big names were visiting it. Big names still visit, of course, but not for a motel stay.

On this particular visit, we did not actually go inside the museum. We were stopping by several Memphis sites for a photo assignment that Jaylin was on, and the Lorraine was one of the sites that he chose. I happened to have my camera with me as well, so I took a few photos of my own of this historic location. We have been inside the museum since that time, but more about that at a later date.

It is always interesting how something negative can often be turned into something positive.

Bible Verse

Put away violence and oppression and do what is just and right. - Ezekiel 45:9

About the photo

Because this area of the Lorraine Motel has not changed much over the years, I briefly considered a black and white version of this photo. But I decided against it, instead opting for my more standard processing techniques. Maybe I will save the black and white look for a later date.

For this photo, I combined combining two different exposures from the same Raw file as I often do. This was so that I could get the clouds to stand out as I wanted them to. Because of the history of the building, I thought the looming clouds were rather fitting for this photo.

Photo: A single Raw exposure, processed in Photoshop. Read more about photography tips, photo software, camera gear, and more at Steve’s Photography Tips.
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M10
Lens: Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens
Date: March 10, 2018
Location: Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.