In the wake of the killing of George Floyd a massive wave of protests swept the country and the world. When the protests started happening in NYC, I really wanted to be out there and document the history that was unfolding in front of us. I’m still very shaky on using the subways due to the pandemic, so I wanted to ride my bicycle to and from the protests. This meant I would have to be weight conscious with what I was carrying.
Initially I wanted to bring out my Digital camera with a huge 70-200mm lens, but putting that in my backpack and trying to ride my bicycle across any of the bridges in NYC would be insane, along with lugging a heavy backpack around in the summer heat. I ended up grabbing my Canonet G-III QL17, and bringing a few rolls of Ilford HP5, FP4 and 1 roll of Fuji Superia with me. Oh, let me not forget my N95 mask, because… you know… pandemic.
The image of the woman standing next to the police looks like there was some tension, but the police and protestors were friendly with each other. The woman was waving sage around, and spreading it onto the crowd, and then moved over to the police and asked if she could do the same for them. They obliged. The sheer size of the crowds was the most eye-opening thing for me. New York City is in the midst of a pandemic, and hardly anybody is working. This meant that everybody was out in droves. New York City was transformed amongst solidarity and upheaval.
My friend and mentor, Joseph Rodriguez, spoke to me months ago about how important it was to document the pandemic and how it was changing the city and the people. We would have to be the photographers to capture this piece of history, he would say. So when the protests started happening, I felt that same sense of responsibility. You could read the different versions of stories from many sides of the argument, but nothing captures the atmosphere quite like a photograph.
Photography holds so much power, not only in our history, but also our future. These photos speak to anger and grace, despair and hope. I believe it is important to use my photography to support justice and basic human rights for everyone by sharing stories that need to be told.
The scene in New York was one of solidarity. People were lined up passing out water, snacks, masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. Interactions with the police were mostly conversations that were kept friendly, and if they began to escalate, someone would step in and keep the crowds moving. I saw people of all races, creeds, colors and genders. There were little children, young adults, old ladies, and everything in-between amongst the crowds.
After what felt like hours on my bike and feet almost every day for 2 weeks, I was really glad I chose a quick and lightweight rangefinder to take with me. Nothing is really like putting a rangefinder to your eye. My idea of documentary photography is that it is not about perfection, but emotion. Documentary photography is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events. Rangefinder shooting harkens back to a simpler time: lightweight, low bulk, small size. These perks made it easy for me to move around the crowds, not draw too much attention to myself, and squeeze into tight spots to get the shot.
Here are some more photos from the past 2 weeks:
I’m all over the place, but you can catch me on my Instagram.
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