The Brave Fight Back: a picture story
40 images, 68 pages, transparent/red cover, laser printed on archival, acid-free paper, saddle stitched & signed!
Designed, printed & assembled by yours truly.
In late 2014 I photographed a protest that wound through the streets of downtown Atlanta. It was in response to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. An eighteen-year-old African American young man who died at the hands of police. A grand jury had chosen not to indict officer Darren Wilson on murder charges and people were so angry and fed up that they took the street to be heard.
It had started two years earlier in 2012 with the controversial murder of Trayvon Martin – a young boy who was murdered by a violent and overeager neighborhood watch volunteer. The killer, George Zimmerman, was protected by Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law that originally was passed with the intention of protecting citizens who felt their life was in danger and had no recourse other than to take the offensive.
It was the choking death of Eric Garner who died helpless and subdued by an offensive line’s worth of police officers for selling untaxed cigarettes and more recently, it was the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling that continue to fuel the fervor of activists. Over the past few years it felt as if you could literally feel the racial climate in America shifting. Slowly at first, it didn’t happen all at once, but with each death the temperature increased.
Once the facts around the Michael Brown case came out it was obvious that “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” was a false narrative. It had been superficially perpetuated by the media as well as in part by the outspoken, and I believe, pure intentioned activists. Even though it was false, it stuck. It stuck so well that groups like Black Lives Matter began to chant it at their events. For good or bad, it took on a life of its own and seemingly became a mantra for the downtrodden and disenfranchised across our great nation.
After photographing the “mob” that night I began paying closer attention to all of these events happening near me. I started seeing the perspective of others unlike I had before. I began focusing my photographic efforts on subjects that would allow me to share my own view of politics and society in the South. I began photographing more Black Lives Matter events, campaign rallies, parades and Gay Pride events. During the 2016 Primary Presidential Election I took pictures at Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and even an anti-Islam rallies.
But it was the nomination of Donald Trump that motivated me more than anything else. His unabashedly brash and crude approach that was also adopted by many of his supporters had sucked me in. Whenever he was in Atlanta I was there to take pictures. Pictures of him, his followers, his protestors, the opportunistic vendors selling t-shirts, hats and pins – literally anything Trump related I could find.
I was even kicked out of two different Trump rallies for taking pictures. I attended the rallies just like any other supporter in the audience, except my camera was bigger and I’m not exactly a tiny man. I easily attracted the attention of his security and event detail who refused to allow me to take pictures. As a truly undecided voter at the time, this turned me off tremendously.
Unlike the other candidates, Trump would corral the media into a large gated area, almost like a pig pen in order to keep track of them and shape the story he wanted them to tell. Since I didn’t fit the mold of a traditional supporter or media, I would go in and shoot with a very direct and aggressive approach anticipating that I would get the boot shortly anyway.
“The Brave Fight Back” is my personal account and represents my view of the racial discord and political consequences our nation has been experiencing recently. It’s not meant to be literal in every sense though – some pictures are fun and whimsical, some ugly and miserable at times and a few representing all those simultaneously.