It was one of the great eras in African-American musical history, and Wornie Reed, his new camera in hand, was on a mission to capture it.

As a graduate student in the 1970s, Reed often had a front-row seat at performances by Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, the Staple Singers, John Lee Hooker, and other gospel, blues, soul, and jazz music legends.

“I was trying to capture in the photographs how I felt when I heard these people perform,” said Reed, a Virginia Tech professor and director of the university’s Race and Social Policy Research Center.

Through Feb. 15, Reed’s 22 photos of these famed performers are on display at the Armory Gallery at Virginia Tech. The exhibition, called Sweet Soul Music, documents in photos, mostly black and white, and in sound the black music culture in Boston and New York from 1971 to 1974.

Reed will discuss details about these musicians and his experiences capturing their images on Feb. 7 during a talk and reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Armory Gallery. The exhibition commemorates Black History Month.

Sweet Soul Music exhibit
The Sweet Soul Music exhibition at the Armory Gallery on Draper Road will be on display through Feb. 15.

“It throws you back in time,” said Kevin Concannon, professor of art history and director of the School of Visual Arts in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, of Reed’s exhibition. “It communicates to me a sense of being there in that particular moment.”

Reed is a professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and he is considered an expert in the areas of race, social policy, ethnic health disparities, and criminal justice. He often lectures on the development of soul music, his favorite genre.

“Soul is a great expression of African-American culture because it is based on the blues and gospel,” Reed said.

Blues and gospel “affected music all over the world,” he said.

Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone