Out of the Shoebox: Simmering, not quite a boil
It's good to be honest about our weaknesses. I have a lot to be honest about. I am hopeless when it comes to sorting through photos. I am easily distracted.
In June 2017 I took photos at a protest in Seattle. I can't remember the details, but I think it was a protest / counter-protest partially centered on a travel ban. Proud Boys and other pro-Trump groups were protesting in downtown Seattle, and counter-protesters gathered in response. There were a lot of pro- and anti-Islam signs.
I say partially centered on a travel ban because I got the sense that pro-Trump groups were more interested in a public protest than a specific issue. That's one flailing photographer's observation, and it's not meant as a slight, even though I disagree with their positions and objectives. Protests are a mix of targeting a specific issue, mobilizing support, and demonstrating competing voices and ideas.
Groups of Proud Boys and other protesters would occasionally walk around the protest area. Tensions between protesters and counter-protesters increased on one of these walks. A fight nearly broke out.
I took some photos. I can't remember if I posted them to my old site. I stumbled on the photos tonight, and I spent a lot of time thinking about them. I'd forgotten about the photos and the palpable anger. I'd also forgotten about the backdrop - comic book-like characters painted on construction walls who seemed intimately involved.
This was 2017. I hope we can find a constructive path out of this divisiveness. Judging by the anger and the t-shirts, I think we have our work cut out for us. I wasn't all that comfortable being a photographer in that moment. I believe photojournalism is hugely important. But there are times you look around and see so many cameras and phones that you wonder about the line between documenting and exacerbating. (Note: These aren't polished images. A mix of JPGs and RAW with inconsistent lighting and white balance. I'm too tired to go through for consistency. I think they are cohesive, though.)
One of the reasons I'm a flailing documentary photographer is I am timid and too often stick to the periphery. The best documentary photographers are fearless and get into the thick of things. They're out there doing incredible work. People who visit this site regularly are tired of hearing me say this - we're going to see an explosion of photography, video, and audio in a few years that is going to help us come to terms with these strange years. And the exhibits and books will just get stronger and stronger.