3 Black Photographers on Capturing the George Floyd Protests
I think it's extremely important. And, I mean, I'm not saying that other photographers can't cover it, but I feel that as a black photographer, you can then control the narrative and show a different side. Like I said, most of the black photographers that I know who are covering it, even if they weren't photographers, they would be at the protest, they would be involved. If it’s a subject that is close to their heart. It will give you a different perspective on it. If you're just there as a job, as an assignment, and you have no connection, you will photograph it in a different way, and you would help to spread a different narrative. So whereas a black photographer may be looking at pictures of solidarity, of people marching or shouting out, holding signs, trying to document moments where the police have been over-forceful, someone else may just be looking at, Oh, hey, look! This person was doing graffiti or they threw something at the police. It creates a completely different narrative. For example, there was a picture that I took, and I know a few other black photographers took, of the man who had a white van which he had spray-painted with Black Lives Matter on it, drove it to the protest, and was standing in the middle and allowing other people to climb up his van. And he was part of the protest, and we took that picture and then someone else took that picture, and the tagline for the article was “Violence and Vandalism at the March” and how protesters vandalized this van. The guy was like, “What are you talking about? That's not even true. That's not what happened.” This guy did it to his own van. I do feel like as a black photographer, it's very important for black photographers to be the ones telling this story and to document this so that they can control the narrative and present a real image of what is happening.
I'm from Birmingham, Alabama, so we often talk about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four girls and how that event has been passed down through generations and it still shudders through our soul. Is there any moment in history like that that you grew up learning and has been triggered because of these events?I mean, again, there were so many, but even over here, we had when I was younger, there was a young black boy by the name of Stephen Lawrence who was killed by these four or five racist guys. The parents were fighting for years for justice. There were marches, there were campaigns and so many people that tried to fight to this day for justice for Stephen Lawrence. There's another black boy, Mark Duggan. Basically, he was in a car and the police stopped him and literally just opened fire on him and killed him. Things that you've seen with like the civil rights movement during like church bombings, people walking into church and shooting people. All of these instances make you feel that we haven't gotten anywhere. That we're now still dealing with this, and not only dealing with it, having to explain to people why it's an issue and how it affects us. It's traumatic. Growing up, we're watching it or it happens in our area, but imagine being one of these people actually videoing it or who were on the street when it happened. That is literally going to cause so much trauma within the community that is not dealt with, and we are kind of just expected to be strong and continue and just go on until something else happens. I feel like, for me, and I'm sure for the majority of black people, all of these things are so traumatic in a way that it touches all of us in some way.