The media plays a critical role in how the public perceives protests. The words used, images published and information disseminated directly affects public support and ultimately if and what societal and policy changes are made. For photographers and photo editors, the decision of what images to share and what to hold back matters. Context matters.

A “protest photo” has come to evoke a specific type of image; this depiction is often an incomplete, harmful trope. We’ve all seen these photographs.

Those gathered are portrayed as a single entity — “protesters”— or worse, as criminal, depraved and a fringe group with ludicrous demands. The images centered are of sensational moments—an act of violence, a depiction of a (often Black) protester yelling or displaying heightened emotions or some form of property destruction.

This simplification suggests that chaos and vandalism has defined the protests, rather than the demand that law enforcement stop killing Black people.

What is often missing are quiet and funny moments, joyous and tearful embraces, names and humanizing details that might connect us to those who can otherwise seem unfamiliar and distant. This omission is a failure and disservice to the American public and does little but characterize the experience of others as alien and unrelatable, fueling existing division, creating others and furthering an absence of empathy.

A selection of photographs from Pittsburgh, Portland, Syracuse and Rochester, these images represent the chasm between what is widely reported and the groundtruth; the intention is to add nuance, intimacy and humanity to “protest reporting” and, I hope, provide you with a smile and something(s) to consider. As always, I value your thoughts and feedback.

Stay well and stay healthy.


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Copyright (C) 2020 Maranie R. Staab. All rights reserved.