What we are seeing right now – on our streets, at the polls, on our screens – is a pivotal moment in time. One that has inspired reflection, frustration directed towards institutional injustice, and profound hope for change.
Among the protests, the teach-ins, and the marches are an incredible cohort of photographers capturing every moment. From New York City to Los Angeles, and everywhere in between, creative minds are grabbing their toolkit and letting their lens and unique perspectives tell the story. Meet six of these storytellers who are helping shape the visual narrative of protest, and consider supporting them, with a follow or a share.
Steve Sweatpants, @stevesweatpants
Steve John Irby, or Steve Sweatpants as he’s widely known, was born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens. As a photographer and the Editor-at-Large, Social Director, and Co-Founder of Sweet Dreams Magazine, Steve’s creative vision relies on representing one’s worldview without inhibition. When the protests came to New York, Steve was right there to participate and photograph the triumphs and trials on the streets of New York City. We got to know Steve through his expert approach to street photography, paying close attention to light, scale, vanishing points, and composition without any hard-and-fast rules, and you can see that in each of his evocative, raw, black-and-white photos. You can follow him here.
Devin Allen, @bydvnlln
Devin Allen’s photographs have been featured by The New York Times, Time, and in permanent collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Born and raised in Baltimore, he shares stark black and white images from the protests on his Instagram, all with one simple caption: “Untitled,” -2020. Follow along here.
Andre D. Wagner, @photodre
Andre D. Wagner is a Brooklyn-based photographer and artist. His work explores the poetic and lyrical nuances of daily life; using city streets, people, public transportation, and the youth of the twenty-first century as his visual language. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times and was recently commissioned as part of a series entitled Self-Portraits from Black Photographers Reflecting on America. You can read his full reflection below and follow him on Instagram here.
It wasn’t long after I fell in love with making photographs that I realized how being in this Black body would provide its own set of challenges separate from the paranoia and suspicions our society already has about cameras. In my humble opinion, photographing people on city streets as I do requires a graceful dance along with the confidence in one’s beliefs. But the reality of being in the field for me is that I’m never given the benefit of the doubt–no one ever thinks I’m up to something remotely righteous. My camera fits squarely into the palm of my hands and is black in color. I’m sure my black skin also had something to do with why a police officer thought I was carrying a gun a few weeks ago while walking down a Brooklyn street. In a way, that experience reminded me of when I was younger growing up in Omaha, and my dad was teaching me how to drive. The lessons on what to do when a police officer pulled me over would be the same lessons I need today in my art practice. “Make sure your hands are visible, don’t make any sudden moves,” are words I still hear my dad saying.
Fast forward to the recent protests in New York. I wanted nothing more than to be on the front lines, telling our stories. Yet, as I walked circles around Foley Square in Manhattan on the second day of protests, my heart and my soul just couldn’t do it. At that moment, I had nothing left; I was so weak, the camera was just too heavy. The fact is, the battles I’ve been fighting started long before I got here, and I’ve been running on empty. But I know now, my faith in life and photography doesn’t prevent fatigue. After all, I have a point of view, and, as a black man in America, having a point of view is innately political.
Cyn Lagos, @cynlagos
Cyn Lagos feels right at home in Miami, where she works as a street photographer and graphic designer. She’s on a mission “to inspire social change and educate the world on conscious visual storytelling.” Her Instagram tells a story of the streets in Florida these past several weeks, of defiant strength and the many shades of Black Lives Matter in Florida. Follow her here.
Nikko LaMere, @nikkolamere
Nikko Lamere is a Los Angeles native, who has been capturing the spirit of the city for nearly two decades in film and stills. He took to the streets of South LA to capture the Compton Cowboys on their Peace Ride in early June before heading over to the All Black Lives Matter protest in Downtown LA later in the month. Follow him here.
Vanessa Charlot, @vanessa.charlot
Vanessa Charlot is a documentary photographer and Haitian-American. Primarily working in black and white, her work centers on themes around socio-economic disparity, intersectionality, and sexual and gender expression, seeking to let visuals create an equal ground for under-represented groups. That work is on full display in her coverage of the protests in St. Louis, where despite many masked faces, she conveys resounding emotions of strength, despair, brutality, and resilience across every frame. Follow her here.
Header image taken by Cyn Lagos at a Black Lives Matter protest in Miami, Florida.