Born in Alabama, Higgins studied business management at Tuskegee University. He became interested in photography in 1967 after meeting Polk, a Tuskegee professor and also the school's photographer. He spent several days a week at Polk's house peppering him with questions about photography.
That same year, Higgins participated in a civil rights rally. He was horrified at the pictures he saw the next day in the local newspaper.
"The press showed us as potential thugs," Higgins said.
Hoping to show people there was "a different way to see things," Higgins began taking his own photos. His main subjects were his family.
"It was out of love," he said. "It was from the heart."
Because Tuskegee had no photography major, Higgins moved to New York in 1969, a year before graduation, to spend his summer at Look magazine. There, he studied under Arthur Rothstein, the director of photography.
After graduating from Tuskegee, he returned to New York and did freelance work. While completing an assignment from TWA, he made his first trip out of the country, traveling to Egypt in 1973.
"I was really awestruck," Higgins said. "We all tend to grow up in our own little corner lot and forget there's a whole world out there."
Two years later, he joined The Times. Higgins, whose photos have formed such books as "The Black Woman," "Drums of Life" and "Elder Grace," will continue his travels. He and his wife will leave for Ethiopia next week to photograph Christmas ceremonies.
"I've been happy I've been able to experience as much as I have during my career," Higgins said. "I'm happier there are still things I want to discover."
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