What’s Going On: How Photojournalists Are Documenting The George Floyd Protests

This image, by street photographer Steven John Irby, is one of many the photographer captured of the George Floyd protests and was included in a recent New Yorker article, with the caption “Just north of Times Square, marchers paused to read the names of men, women, and children who had been killed by the police.” This image is also on Irby’s social media feed

On Monday, May 25, Memorial Day, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, was arrested by four Minneapolis police officers, responding to a report that Floyd had tried to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. During the arrest (captured on video by various sources, including concerned bystanders and security cameras), the arresting officers pinned Floyd, who was handcuffed, down to the ground by kneeling on him and applying pressure to various parts of his body, including to his neck. Minutes later Floyd, who had been crying out that he couldn’t breathe and pleading for help, soon became unconscious and died that same night. (You can watch some of those videos in a New York Times article “8 Minutes and 46 Seconds: How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody” that has reconstructed a timeline of the events from various video sources.)

But the videos that captured the brutal incident were quickly and widely shared on social media the next day, Tuesday, May 26, and instantly ignited outrage. In many communities, the videos of the event sparked protests across the U.S.  

Since the demonstrations began on May 26, photojournalists as well as other photographers, both professional and amateur, have been on the ground in cities and towns throughout the U.S., documenting these protests. In some cases, photographers, videographers and reporters have been injured, both by police called in to control the demonstrations, and by some of the demonstrators. In many cases, newspapers, magazines and news outlets across the country have produced stunning photos and video of the events taking place. (Since the protests are ongoing, we’ll update this story with additional information and links as it takes place.)  To help you get a glimpse of how photojournalists (as well as other photographers) are documenting the extraordinary events, demonstrations and protests occurring across the country and the world, we’ve asked photographers, photo editors and educators what photojournalists, social media feeds and online stories have caught their attention. We’ve also asked photojournalists themselves for links to their own social media feeds and published work, as well as links to other photojournalists and photographers.

 

A demonstrator marching in the George Floyd protests in New York City. Photo by Steven John Irby

Steven John Irby, Street Photographer & Director Of Street Dreams Magazine

Even before the George Floyd protests began, Brooklyn-based photographer Steven John Irby’s work, which you can see here on his Instagram feed, has been catching the eye of many in the photo world. In fact, one of the photography websites in our network, Digital Photo, recently featured a story on him: 10 Questions With Steven John Irby. In addition to his Instagram feed, Irby says he runs the streetdreams.co with his business partners. “We approach the ideology of the site as an art institution,” says Irby. “So there is a flow of photo journals that are contemporary and retrospectives on photographers. I have a couple of photo journals on the site, and we are working on a BLM [Black Lives Matter] editorial to release this week, with myself and other photographers.”

Irby recently worked an assignment for The New Yorker magazine. The photos are published in a story titled, “Protesting Past Curfew in New York City” by writer Emily Witt. “I think that’s one of the good points of references for the current climate of the world,” says Irby. 

Irby also suggests another article from Vanity Fair magazine, “In Photos: Protest And Rage In America’s Cities.” Irby’s work and work from other photographers are included in this story documenting the protests across the U.S.

 

Tara Pixley, Los Angeles-based Visual Journalist, Professor & Scholar Of Critical Race And Journalism Studies

For those who want to learn more about how photographers are documenting the George Floyd protests, Los Angeles-based visual journalist Tara Pixley suggests looking at the following stories:

“I selected these photo galleries,” says Pixley, “because I think they show a wide breadth of approaches to photographing that feel to me to have been done (mostly) with care and consideration for those depicted. They’re showing a lot of angles on this fight for social justice beyond capturing just the easy action of police violence/conflict with protestors, looting/fires/tear gas or signs. The most interesting and powerful photos are often the most complex. Simple imagery can be wonderful to get a clear and impactful statement across but the complexity of this situation calls for complex and thoughtful compositions.

“I am a firm believer in the power of photography to inform the public and inspire change. I also recognize that images can be used to oppress, incriminate and dehumanize certain populations. In this historical moment, when we have the capacity to amplify the truths behind police brutality; recognize the lived experiences of Black and brown people under state surveillance and police violence; and document one of the largest civil rights movements in human history, we must wield that power with care and thoughtful consideration.”

 

The cover of KK Ottesen’s book, “Activist,” in which she interviewed and photographed Civil Rights icons Congressman John Lewis and Harry Belafonte, among others.

KK Ottesen, Freelance Photographer & Author Of “Activist” And “Great Americans”

KK Ottesen, who you can read about in this story on her book “Activist” on Digital Photo Pro, suggests photographers study the websites and social media feeds of the following photographers:

  • André Cheung, Washington, DC: “To me, this shot (on the opening page of Cheung’s website) powerfully evokes the striving, hope and passion of protest,” says Ottesen. “It’s broad enough to encompass the moment and the multitudes who make it, while also focusing on the protest of one individual, and thus capturing both the beauty of public protest and the always-individual decision to speak out behind these protests. Highly partial to black-and-white photography myself, I find that the stark black and white tones in this photo offer a contrast between the current moment with a black man protesting—alive and vibrant—and a cold, muted white monument representing the order of a fading past.”
  • Dustin Chambers from a slideshow on Washingtonpost.com: “Photos from protests around the nation following the death of George Floyd”—The slideshow includes work by Atlanta-based Reuters Photojournalist Dustin Chambers: “I’ve photographed many events at which photographers and media makers wait patiently for moments of conflict to document. Those are important moments, of course, but I do think that the tendency over represents those moments and distorts reality.” Ottesen refers to a photo included in the washingtonpost.com slideshow, by Dustin Chambers, of Atlanta police officers and riot police kneeling. “This photo, like most I selected, captures the opposite sort of moment—equally dramatic, but of a coming together,” says Ottesen. “Having photographed quite a few protests in recent years, it strikes me that the yearning behind so many protests really is for a coming together. This photo captures a moment of individual decisions within a group and the opportunity it affords to see and try to read faces and body language as well as symbolic gestures is highly compelling and incredibly textured.”
  • Eric Elmore, AZ: “I came across Eric Elmore’s work while jurying ‘Resistance: An Exhibition,’ for American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact earlier this year,” says Ottesen. “Elmore uses high contrast black-and-white images to focus our eyes on what he’d like us to see in the moment or in the individual he is photographing. And he gets close to his subjects in doing so, which I find to be a good reminder for those of us who can grow a little too used to our zoom lenses: Get close to the action to really capture it.”
  • Dee Dwyer, Washington, DC: “I recently came across Dee Dwyer’s work documenting the George Floyd inspired Black Lives Matter protests in DC and have enjoyed the energy of the photos. But on her Instagram feed, this video captures the joy, creativity and camaraderie that is often a big part of protest and activism, telling what is happening as well as why.”
  • Ottesen says she’s also enjoyed following the coverage and work of Salwan Georges of the Washington Post (@salwangeorges on Instagram), Stephen Voss (@stephenvoss on Instagram), Evelyn Hockstein (@evelynpix on Twitter), and Tony Mobley (@tonemobley on Instagram).

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