Most of my family is black. I’m white. Like many of us, I have strong opinions about what happened in this country subsequent to the tragic death of George Floyd. My personal feelings on the matter run deep, and I think about them often as the father of several black children now entering adulthood. I’ve made an effort, however, to let the following photos speak for themselves. In truth, this is a collection that was never meant to be. I frequently organize and print photo projects in book form. Almost all of them have at least some forethought and planning. This one did not. As the events surrounding the death of George Floyd transpired, I felt compelled to pick up my camera simply document what I was seeing. I had no intention of curating or attempting to share them broadly. In fact, they were collecting virtual dust on the shelves of my cloud storage archives.
Just a few weeks ago, however, I picked up a copy of Jill Freedman’s Old News: Resurrection City. Her opening line of the book caught my attention:
“I knew I had to shoot the Poor Peoples Campaign when they murdered Martin Luther King Jr. I had to see what was happening, to record it and be part of it. I felt so bad.”
After browsing the book for a few minutes, I set it down and went directly to my computer. I began scouring my archives and downloading everything I’d captured pertaining to the post-5.25.2020 protest. The larger collection lives on my personal website, and highlights are shared below. It’s not comprehensive, it’s not groundbreaking, but it’s real, and it’s what I saw.
Corner of Olive and 5th.
I was sitting at home on a Zoom call when I heard a commotion and stepped outside with my camera. This was happening, quite literally, in my own front yard and I, like many others, didn’t see it coming.
Just down our street, a block-and-a-half, Charles Brown (a white man) was murdered. Surviving family have made the home a memorial of sorts. The murder is unsolved, and the home remains an open wound for the community. This family paused in the shadow of a confederate flag for a photo during one of the marches.
I wondered what was going through her mind as I snapped this. I imagined (pure speculation obviously) her running for office with visions of new parks and economic development and balancing budgets and improving city services. I’m sure she didn’t imagine this.
On the Record
Walking around with a camera, as I often do, garners a variety of responses. Many people would simply rather not be noticed. This day was different. The demonstrators wanted to be documented. They wanted to be seen. They wanted to be on record.
I don’t remember this woman’s name, but she reached out to me after the event. Somehow she had come across my Instagram post and wanted a copy for her portfolio. This was something big, and we all knew it.
It Got Quiet
Several months later a road trip took us through the city of Madison. The streets were now empty, but stories remained.
February of ‘22 found us on an already painful trip (for medical reasons) to Minneapolis. There were a handful of us there–viewing the remains, hearing the echoes, feeling the moment linger still. Frozen in time.