Webster Phillips was around 9 years old when he first went out on assignment for the Baltimore Sun. Irving Phillips, his father, a staff photographer, brought Webster along with an extra camera so he could act as second photographer, getting detail shots while Irving focused on the action.
He was learning the family trade. Webster’s grandfather, I. Henry Phillips, was a photographer at the Afro-American newspaper. His father, Irving, also worked for the Afro, and traveled around the South with Martin Luther King Jr., documenting his speeches for the paper. In 1969, after he returned from serving in Vietnam, Irving was the first Black photographer hired by the Sun. Even Webster’s grandmother, Laura Phillips, worked in the Afro’s archive.