Politics & Culture

9 Black Photographers Capture the Power of Protest

Meet the creatives who are using their talent to champion change and record history.
Reading time 6 minutes
Image via JD Barnes

The recent killings of innocent Black citizens such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many more at the hands of police has sent the nation into an uproar of action, leading to widespread protests across the country. All officers involved in Floyd's death have been charged, thanks in part to the public outcry and daily demonstrations across all 50 states.

While largely peaceful, protests in New York City, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, and Los Angeles erupted into violence this week, as police utlized tear gas and rubber bullets to clear crowds, often when such show of force was deemed unnecessary. Familiar bustling city streets felt foreign as police wearing intimidating riot gear and members of the military block parks and roadways, enforcing early curfews.

Despite these efforts, citizens continue to rally together daily, and many brave photographers have also taken on the responsibility of heading to the frontlines to document history. Actively participating in the crowds alongside fellow protestors, these modern photo journalists have capture the realities and dangers of protesting for equality, all in the midst of a global pandemic.

L’Officiel USA spoke with nine Black photographers participating in protests across the country. Reporting from Brooklyn, Atlanta, D.C. and beyond, their lenses have captured the hope, fear, and resilience of communities coming together in protest. We asked each of them to share an image they've captured over the last week, and to put into words what they are seeing, feeling, and thinking, as they simultaneously produce art and resistance from behind their camera. 

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“The truth is, we don't want to have to be on the streets protesting. We don't want to have to risk contracting COVID just to get our point across. This is the burden that we have to carry simply because we're Black in America. We don't have the luxury of sitting idly, enjoying the first warm days of June.”

Mark Clennon, New York, NY

“There is no way to silence this. It’s going to keep growing. It’s going to bring about real change, by any means necessary. People need to really understand that. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. 400 plus years of repression was always going to eventually lead to this. So now that we are here, history is being made. I ask that everybody reading this choose the right side.”

JD Barnes, Brooklyn, NY

“While in the crowd documenting the rally of protestors I felt a sense of community and people genuinely coming together in support of change. “

Kay Hickman, Brooklyn, NY

"I've seen things I thought I'd only read about in history books firsthand. The experience changes you, but at the same time, it makes you learn how your peers think which will change the future from this day forward."

Darnell Thompson, Brooklyn, NY

“The smell of sage was floating in the air as this woman cleansed protestors. She then turned to the approaching police and said, 'You all need cleansing too.' It was a moment of peace and connection, and opened my eyes to the possibility of radical change.”

Peter Cooper, Brooklyn, NY

“Black people should be able to live in freedom without thinking we may not return home. Though a lot has transpired in the past week, our resilience keeps up motivated that change will come, only when the systemic issues that have been adopted by the nation are dismantled.”

Lynsey Weatherspoon, Atlanta, GA

"How do you justify, as a non-Black person, showing up to demand justice for Black people without a mask during a pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black people?"

Alexis Hunley, Los Angeles, CA

“Things started off strong and peaceful, with a diverse multitude that gradually began to dwindle, as the evening progressed, and police exited the precinct to make their presence known. Tensions mounted between protesters and law enforcement, following a series of events that lead up to SWAT and reinforcements arriving and surrounding protesters, eventually resulting in individuals being pepper-sprayed and some arrests. Despite the very ugly reason coming together, it was very beautiful to see young people gathered and raising their voices and taking leadership fearlessly.”

Xen, Rockford, IL

“As a Black photographer on the front lines, I feel it's needed for us to control the narrative and clear up the misconceptions placed on the 'misunderstood' which are Black people. It has been a traumatic experience but it is my duty. We are tired, we demand change. It will come because there is no other option. I've witnessed the world standing in solidarity with my people through my lens. The photographs I create show that Black people are powerful, we must be protected at all times.”

Dee Dwyer, Washington D.C

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