Photographers around the world are documenting the multitudes protesting in the streets for racial justice and an end to policing as we know it. In a recent open call, we sought to highlight some of this work and contextualize it beside the photographer’s own words.
We aim to show the strength and solidarity represented by these images rather than to put violence and pain on display, and so we have taken care to select images that do not perpetuate harm or distortion. You will see scenes depicting action, tender moments, rebuilding, and celebration. We hope that this project serves to lift up the images of photographers who, through their work visualize the indelible significance of this movement. We will continue to publish photos on this page, intermittently, over the next few weeks.
Beautify Bronzeville Businesses: In response to the damages that some small businesses sustained amid protests, a local non-profit, Organic Oneness, mobilized community partners, artists, and volunteers to create beautiful murals on the boarded-up buildings. Approximately 60 volunteers joined Organic Oneness and community partners on E. 47th St. & S. Cottage Grove Ave. in the historic southside Bronzeville neighborhood to “Beautify Bronzeville Businesses!” as the event was named. Muralists Rahmaan “Statik” Barnes and Damon Reed led the painting.
You chose to submit images that depict rebuilding and celebration. Can you talk about this choice and the intention behind your photos?
I wanted to share images of some of the efforts that individuals are doing to work with others to heal our communities. In order for real transformation to happen, we need to take action, not just speak out against injustices. Yes, the marches and rallies assist to raise awareness, so it has an important role in this movement; but the path towards racial justice will require an enormous amount of work, innovation, collaboration, humility, and patience, from people of all backgrounds, with a long-term commitment and from all levels of society – individuals, communities, and institutions. I believe it’s really important for us to see and hear about projects that people are engaged in that lifts our spirits, that awakens that deep part within us. It’s like in photography, or any other artistic practice, we need exposure to what others are doing as it helps us to go inward to reflect and gather the information that will then assist us to generate new ideas, motivating us to experiment and create. This process also permits us to figure out what we each individually can do. Plus, the rebuilding and celebration are part of the real story, so we need to see photos of these aspects of our collective reality.
What inspires you to capture these moments? How do you see your images playing a role in the larger movement?
Racism is a deadly disease, and it’s just plain old ugly. No one looks or feels good in racism, right? In order for all of us to heal from racism, we need a vision, we need inspiration and hope; we need to see and feel beauty in the world. And, this is what I looked for when I was photographing the mural painting project. I love taking photos of humans connecting, even when there’s no talking involved, just working side-by-side together. The unspoken can be so powerful, so beautiful – just like still photos. It’s meditative and profound. Images of people “doing” and “being” together are critical to include in the visual narrative because, as stated earlier, it’s a part of our reality.
What has been your experience photographing events and marches in response to Black Lives Matter?
Photographing these events has been inspiring to witness because of all the people! Young and old, Black, White, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, so many ethnic backgrounds, different faith groups, together in solidarity for peace and justice. It was powerful to see and to physically experience. I know it is a part of history, a visual glimpse of humanity’s maturation process from adolescence into adulthood, so to speak.
What ethical considerations do you keep in mind when photographing any Black Lives Matter action?
I have always been concerned about how I photograph people, especially individuals from communities or groups who have been historically misrepresented. Perhaps being a woman of color myself has made me acutely aware of this aspect of image-making.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Yeah, I think photographers have an amazing opportunity, especially now, to help the world see what is difficult to see when times are tough. I don’t think we should underestimate the power of visually capturing the qualities of hope, beauty, and love during these times. They fuel us with energy, confidence, and inspiration, inviting us to explore a new vision for what’s possible for our world.
Nancy Wong is a freelance photographer based in Chicago, Illinois. Her goal is to facilitate human connection and foster upliftment by visually documenting the qualities of beauty, dignity, and nobility in the world. Nancy is committed to contributing to an ever-expanding visual narrative of the full experiences of people who have been historically disenfranchised. She served 5 years as a staff photographer for the Bahá’í World Centre in Israel and has had photo assignments in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and throughout the United States. www.nancymwong.com
Diggy Moreland documented a demonstration in Chicago. Of this, he states: “The last month has been heavy enough to break the silence of many and open up the eyes of a lot more. I’m unable to put the frustration into words, so I tried to do it through photos.” Below, please find a short Q&A with Diggy.
What has been your experience photographing these protests?
Photographing these protests has been a memorable experience. Memorable from the standpoint that I’m finally seeing people that aren’t directly affected by the police brutality stand up and use their voice in solidarity with those that are. You can see the passion and rage in their facial expressions, and it’s really amazing to be able to capture.
I understand that you don’t practice photography professionally but for personal fulfillment. What inspires you to capture these moments? How do you see your images playing a role in the larger movement?
Photography is a hobby that I recently picked up, but I realized that we’re experiencing a movement that has been boiling underneath the surface for quite some time, and it has finally erupted. I’m inspired to capture these moments because documenting the actions and protests that seem to be stimulating change is something that I want to be perfectly captured. These images can and will show, that there’s no one exempt from participating and can motivate others to speak up and join us in the trenches as well.
As a Black person photographing the Movement for Black Lives, can you talk about your approach to documenting protests and how it has felt to participate in shaping these narratives?
My approach to documenting is pretty simple. I stand back, I look, and I survey. What are people doing? What are they saying? Can I find someone that has the passion on their face and it can be seen through a snapshot? It has felt amazing to look at the crowds and see something/someone so passionate about what they’re trying to convey, and then use the shutter button to try to create a moment.
What do you hope people feel or do when they see your images?
When looking at the images, I want people to think: “I wasn’t there, but I feel like I am now.” When they see the images, I want them to see and understand why people are angry, and that they want their voices heard. There aren’t sounds to these pictures, but I want people to pretty much “hear” the protest through imagery.
Diggy Moreland is an amateur photographer in Chicago who appreciates a good photo and is willing to learn along the way. Documenting his experiences through a lens is something Diggy has discovered is soothing to his soul and helps him unleash his creative side. Find out more about Diggy on his blog, More Than a Tie.
“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it ALL THE TIME.” – Angela Davis
In memory of countless black lives ended as a result of police brutality, systemic racism and injustice, thousands are rising. These photographs were taken at various protests across Chicago in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. These photos are from a faith leaders march in Bronzeville, a Defund CPD: Fund Black Lives march in West Town, and a Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor birthday march in Uptown.
SAY THEIR NAMES: Breonna Taylor. Dominique Fells. Rayshard Brooks. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Sandra Bland. Nina Pop. Eric Garner. Laquan McDonald. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Walter Scott. Stephon Clark. Alton Sterling. Freddie Gray. Philandro Castile. Marsha P. Johnson. Fred Hampton. Botham Jean. Atatiana Jefferson. Martin Luther King Jr. Emmett Till. Trayvon Martin.
What has been your experience photographing Black Lives Matter events and marches?
My experience has been first as a participant in the marches and second as a photographer. I brought my camera to about six marches or events that I attended. The protests were peaceful and powerful. The photos I made were used for a special edition of Streetwise that is dedicated to Black Lives Matter.
What inspires you to capture these moments? How do you see your images playing a role in the larger movement?
A lot of things inspire me to capture these moments and take action in this movement. First, there is outrage at the tragic loss of Black life. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Emmitt Till, Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland, Nina Pop, Philandro Castile, Laquan McDonald, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Atatiana Jefferson, Dominique Fells, Stephon Clark, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott are among countless Black Americans killed by police brutality and racial injustice. Second, there are the systemic inequities that we are never taught about in school but the smallest amount of research shows they have continuously affected Black lives since the founding of this country. Our country’s system of criminal justice reveals glaring racial disparities that go beyond the horrifying deaths of black individuals at the hands of police. There are housing inequities that have led to a lack of generational wealth for black families. There are educational inequities that stem from the housing inequities and from schools being funded by property taxes. Then there is a multitude of health inequities. Black individuals have a shorter life expectancy than any other race. Black women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. The Black community is currently being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. The list goes on but I believe that for white people like myself, inaction and silence are forms of perpetuating the problem.
As a photographer, I feel compelled to use my tools towards telling this story as one of many ways that I can take action. Hopefully, when people see the photos they can reflect on the larger movement and what their role could be in it and what tools they have access to that they could use to help. Whether that be just listening and learning or taking action in their own way with their own tools. My ultimate goal for my images is that they make an individual evaluate their own role in the fight for racial justice and get involved.
On a personal level as a queer white woman I recognize that my marriage and the comfort of my life with my wife is in gratitude to people of color who laid the groundwork for the modern gay rights movement. It’s not lost on me that people like Storme DeLarverie and Marsha P Johnson paved the way for my life as an openly gay woman. LGBTQ+ freedoms today are a privilege that queer black individuals led the fight for.
What do you think about when framing compositions, and how do you hope this translates to the viewer?
My background is in photojournalism and every time I take a picture I think about the best way to tell a story in a frame. The concept is so simple even though it’s hard to do. My goals are always clean backgrounds, filling the frame, leading lines, and a decisive moment that tells a story. Ideally, layering a photo and using color as a tool to make the viewer sit with the picture and think for a bit longer.
What ethical considerations do you keep in mind when photographing any Black Lives Matter action? Are there practices that you utilize to minimize harm?
Yes, always, and especially for these protests. I want to make sure the photographs reflect the moment accurately. Asking people if they’re ok with being photographed before or after I photograph them is a great way to minimize harm. Trying to take photos that accurately reflect the power of the moment. Trying to use photography to dispel narratives that are untrue about these protests, such as the narrative that these protests have not been peaceful.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
The cops who killed Breonna Taylor have not yet been arrested. Here are people you can contact about to take action for justice for Breonna.
–Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer: Demands for justice can be made by calling Fischer’s office at (502) 574-2003.
–Special Prosecutor, Attorney General Daniel Cameron: Call 502-696-5300 or e-mail email@example.com
–Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear: Call 502-564-2611
–Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Thomas Wine: Call 502-595-2300 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Color of Change, Black Lives Matter, Brave Space Alliance, and the Equal Justice Initiative are among many organizations people can donate to or get involved with.
Kathleen Hinkel is based in Chicago and has fifteen years of experience in photojournalism and photography. She is infinitely appreciative of the people who have shared their lives and faces with her and her cameras. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her wife, cooking, exploring the musical universe, and finding creative ways to support causes she cares about such as racial justice and LGBTQ+ equality.
I use my photography as a point of entry into understanding the negotiations made by myself as well as others. I am interested in creating awareness related to the ways we connect and communicate in the world, of private fears, longings, and self-discovery.
The police violence against African American communities that we’re witnessing in the U.S. is not new, but the scale of demonstrations, dialogue, and introspect it has prompted is unprecedented. This movement is exposing a historical pattern of brutality against African Americans and other people of color. We are tired of dying. Tired of being brutalized. Tired of being ignored and forgotten.
As people, we are expanding our understanding of police brutality and realizing that it is not isolated but rather systemic in nature. This movement is an urgent struggle for justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion.
We are demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, and the countless individuals who have suffered for far too long at the hands of a complacent America.
We must rise up to resist injustice and to rebuild a future that is rooted in human rights and true equality. Anything less will not do.
Marivi Ortiz is a professional photographer based in Chicago. She holds a Master’s in Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Through the use of photography, video, sound, and storytelling, Marivi’s work investigates the desire for connection, identity construction, personal loss, and trauma survival. Marivi is an active member of the Society for Photographic Education and was previously Co-Chair of the SPE Multicultural-Caucus. She continues to focus on coordinating exhibits and on organizing panels that promote multicultural image-makers and image-making in regional, national, and international contexts.
E.C. Love is a 27-year-old Black Veteran of the United States Army. Originally I’m from Milwaukee, WI, but currently residing on the westside of Chicago. No matter where he lives, he has directly dealt with police brutality and racism. It was an eerie feeling to document a peaceful protest. On one side the unity amongst multiple races bounded us together and it was powerful. The reason we had to bound together and spread peace was heartbreaking.
E.C. Love is a photographer, video editor, and visual director originally from Milwaukee, WI but currently living on the West Side of Chicago. E.C. Fell into photography after a close friend and collaborator after a told him to start taking it more seriously. He views everything as if it is a movie, looking at everyday life and visually dressing the scene.