Why I Do What I Do
I've had a lot of people ask me why I'm making photographs at protests, demonstrations, and other activist events. Sometimes, this question is posed by activists who are sensitive to public exposure and mistrusting of new faces. Other times, the question feels like a more curious exploration of my movitations or an effort to create some rapport. Either way, the answer is always the same, and is always too long to explain in the moment. I figure I'll try here.
When I became interested in activism, organizing, and work revolving around social justice, I immediately realized that I was walking into something I was largely ignorant about. My preconceptions were not only frequently incorrect, but could often be harmful. Everywhere I turned, there was an injustice someone had a lifetime of intimate experience with. It was daunting to figure out how to hook into this environment, particularly as a white, financially privileged, heterosexual male.
So, I decided I want to accomplish two things:
- I want to learn as much as possible
- I want to help, as immediately as possible
The challenge of my first goal is that I am a terrible introvert. I'm pretty capable of being social when I'm in the mood, or for short periods of time, but too much interaction will exhaust me. It helps me to have a social buffer, and the camera is great for that. I can arrive at a gathering and start getting comfortable with the crowd while I'm making photographs. The camera is also an effective conversation starter, as well as an immediate bit of shared context between myself and anyone I might meet.
Helping is a somewhat more complicated topic to navigate for a variety of reasons I might try to explore in a later post, but for the time being I've settled on making photographs of these acts of resistance and providing them back to the organizations or individuals to use as they wish. It's my hope that the photographs will help amplify the important work these people are doing. I want to show them being fierce, hopeful, compassionate, angry, scared, and loving. I want to highlight their enormous generosity, and I want to help others be inspired by that generosity to, themselves, be generous.
This project has evolved since I started it in January. I've been experimenting with different mediums, from Instagram to a website to 'zines, and possibly a book at some point in the future. I've been focusing further on smaller, more local organizing. I've expanded the scope of what I'm photographing beyond resistance to the Trump administration after coming to understand that Trump is just a symptom of a systemic problem I've been ignoring for years.
Ignorance is a privilege I don't want to have any longer. I hope you don't want it, either. These photographs are part of my panacea for that kind of privilege, and I hope you'll allow them to be part of yours.