"An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind." - Dr. Martin Luther King
Quite possibly the most difficult time we’ve ever had starting a blog post. I feel like I need to give a disclaimer here, though I hate to take away from the power of these images. I’ll say on the record that, especially in the light of the events over the last few days, we aren’t trying to use our blog as a platform for our opinions. I feel pretty strongly that as a photographer one of the most important things we can do with our art form is simply document culture. I know we’re typically more editorial photographers in nature but when this opportunity arose for us to see a culture in turmoil and witness a movement from the inside we didn’t want to run away from it. So here’s the story behind what happened in Manhattan yesterday.
I (Miles writing simply because Max didn’t really know where to start with such a touchy subject) and Max were walking down the street literally discussing how we wished there was more going on to photograph. We’re in town for a series of portrait sessions and a wedding but wanted to get a little street photography in mostly for our own curiosity before all of that started. As we walked we could head chants ringing out and before long could see a few people walking right down the middle of 5th avenue towards us. If you’ve spent much time in NYC you know that people walking down the streets in between the cars is a pretty big no - no and a fast way to get either a Jay-Walking ticket or a first class seat to the hospital. It became clear pretty quickly what was happening as as hundreds and hundreds of people walked our way we were soon engulfed with people chanting, singing, and stopping in some of the busiest intersections in the United States to “shut down NYC”. There’s no doubt in my mind that they accomplished that goal. Traffic was backed up for miles as taxis, trucks, and even bike messengers struggled to move through the crowds that had taken over the streets. By the time we reached Herald Square the crowd was several thousand deep and we made our way up to the very front of the group and somehow inside the core group of leaders. This group was being lead by a few very specific people and as they gave directions the chants and directions trickled down the streets around the corners to the people following. We walked over 45 blocks with this group yesterday photographing a cultural uprising completely embracing their rights to speak and all the while saw ourselves escorted by the NYPD down and through intersections that were being shut down to avoid accidents. The entire experience was pretty intense and incredibly fragile but this march stayed peaceful at it’s core even in the face of dozens and dozens of New York Police officers present.
Near the end of the march I looked up in time to see Max talking with somebody in the very front of the line and realized exactly who it was. Nick Cannon had joined the front lines with a shirt that read “I can’t breath” a call out to one of the victims these marches are about and with his arms raised chanting “hand’s up don’t shoot” over and over we were blown away by his passion for this subject.
Over the last 24 hours our country has erupted in a culture war over this topic. There’s no doubt that racism, poverty, and arguably Police brutality are at the core of this conversation andwe were humbled to see it at such close range. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims on both sides of this battle as we hope that whatever needs to change to ease the tension and better regulate all of our safety can happen quickly.