Photography can capture truth and dismantle lies. Last year on August 19, 2017 I went to Boston's Free Speech Rally with my camera. The protest lasted five hours before it became violent. Throughout the day, white supremacists and self proclaimed Nazis had the right to speak, but police were impatient with the rebuttals from us. Everyone around me looked like me: people of color were at battle with authority. Officers began to yell “BACK UP, DON'T TAKE ANOTHER STEP”. Then, we all got sprayed. I turned around to run, unable to catch my breath. People ran to the stores for milk. It was chaos. I begin to capture the destress around us with my lens. I was in disbelief: there was no threat. When I got home, I looked back at the videos others captured, to verify. My images felt like they weren’t enough to prove that we were peaceful, but everything around us wasn't. What blew me away wasn't the protest, but the lack of attention about the spraying in the news. A news reporter was interviewing a police officer, and his response was “It was a very successful day” and to this day I'm wondering, “For who?”. I knew I had to share my images immediately. I uploaded files to share with friends, social media and news stations.
In the past spring semester of 2018 I took a Photobook course and decided to use my protest images. Inspired by the Photobook Holy Bible by Broomberg and Chanarin, I took an existing medium and transformed its meaning. I created a photobook in the form of a newspaper with my images and articles I found, creating a mock The Boston Globe. It looked exactly like a newspaper, except the pages were french folded. I had nine files to print, the largest being 216 inches folded over and over in order to get the final size as 19 x 12. It also included a few interactive interleaves, forcing the audience to view it on a large surface to examine it carefully. The photo book had 68 photos and included eleven different articles.
I chose to disrupt the text with an image right on top of the article and change certain words to red or blue font. A few pages had the text “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?” that repeated, filled the page before introducing another series of events and images as a chapter break. Some pages opened and folded in very unconventional ways to feel like a puzzle or revelation of more hidden images and events. Many of the images juxtaposed the violent scenes with the peaceful ones comparing similar gestures, objects or colors. Putting these images in conversation with each other focused on the complexities of identity and character. I was able to make copies of my photobook and put them in different places on campus, where the newspaper would normally be found. I hope to send it to press and continue expanding the possibility of photobooks, the various forms they take and how they can translate images differently, creating new levels of exposure to social issues. This photobook honors that protest day, and criticizes news outlets. Media is shaped to censor what we see and focus on, as well as the perspectives we are exposed to. This process has intensified my desire to raise awareness about social issues through photography. It remains my biggest contribution to my community, for its a language I speak the most freely. I want to strengthen my role as an artivist and work on more community projects.
At first glance this collection of folded pages seems like a newspaper. From the front page we are reminded of the question of truth, subjectivity, and possession, immediate associations between the newspaper and the title.
Every spread shocks us with a new photograph, each as immersive as the last. The opposite of a newspaper, the text on the pages is almost completely covered over by these photographs. The text, the traditional report, doesn’t matter, it is made obsolete by these monumental photographs. The scale of the photographs invites us into the tumult. The massive spreads pull us in to places we may not want to be; gazing up at armed police officers, so close we can feel the heat and the sweat. But while we are, in a sense, brought into the action, we aren’t engaged by it. Most of the subject’s gazes miss us, and the ones that don’t are smiling or crying, their anger, shouts and grimaces are not meant for us. We feel like we’re on the same team as the individuals towering, shouting or handing out water.
This creation in the form of a newspaper does not explicitly assault the viewer with opinion or shock them into submission. It challenges a traditional form of truth telling and reporting of facts. It demands that we question our traditional sources of information, it even suggests we ignore them. It does this by overwriting traditional printed text with a visual language which describes a diverse group of individuals joined in protest, joined in their collective expressions of joy, pain, sadness, anger and resolve.