Photographer, activist and Leica Women Foto Project awardee, Eva Woolridge shares how she uses her Leica Q2 as a vessel to amplify her messages of social injustice and inequality while discussing the importance of maintaining photographic responsibility when documenting socio-political movements.
Broaden your understanding of identity and its impact on documenting cultures and movements authentically with Eva in her upcoming Leica Akademie online workshop on August 29, 2020. Learn more here.
1. What motivates you to attend a demonstration, camera in hand?
As a Black woman who has experienced racism first hand, I had to go to the recent Black Live Matter protests for my own form of activism. Protests are an opportunity to unify with other people and project your energy to amplify a common cause. As a photographer, I know it is my role to document and archive the people executing their right to protest. Documentation is extremely important. Documentation is what led to these protests. If it wasn’t for documentation, we wouldn’t have seen the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery which ignited this re-surged movement. Documentation is the driving force of the Black Lives Matter movement because that’s all we have for people who see the brutality and racism we as Black people experience. As a photographer, it is my job to use my gift to document this historical moment and provide detailed coverage on the front lines.
2. What moments do you seek to capture and how does your personal opinion of the demonstration impact how you tell your visual stories?
Not only do I want to capture truth, I want to show the truth that is present beyond trauma. When photographing a Black Lives Matter protest, it is common to photograph the grief, despair, pain, violence, and anger that fuels a demonstration fighting for civil rights. However, there are also other moments that are birthed during demonstrations that speak to the complexity of the Black experience. I choose to photograph the moments of unity, power, strength, perseverance, vulnerability, and love we of Black people have. We have so much joy in the African Diaspora. In this particular moment, there is unification that is pushing the movement forward. Our generations (millennials and Gen Z) are finally of age to unleash our power for progress. I choose to capture the intimate moments of strength. The confidence and heroism that is in each one of us. The empathy to protect one another. We see enough pain, but we need to be reminded of how much love and hope exist.
3. While out photographing, what moments have left an indelible impression?
I have been an active protester since I was in high school. In college, I protested against the sexual assault cases dismissed by college administrations. I have protested for Black lives more times than I can count, and even with my experiences, this is the first series of protests that is giving new life to the Black Liberation movement. Until this moment, there was a disregard to these issues because it didn’t negatively affect everyone. This is why, we for the first time, have seen protests for Black lives in all 50 states.
4. What precautions are you taking as you’re out documenting protests?
My first day of protests I don’t think any of us thought violence would escalate the way that it did. We all quickly realized by day two that serious preparation needed to happen. No one is safe from the violence, not even the press which we saw too many times had their Amendment rights violated. I prepared with writing the number of a legal representative on my arm with a sharpie in case I am arrested. I only brought my Leica Q2 as it was small and light enough to photograph while running. I avoided staying in the middle of crowds, and would dip in and out toward the sides to give myself multiple exits if needed. You have to be aware of your surroundings at all times, which is great because there are a lot of great moments you can capture. It’s almost like being hyper-focused.
5. How are you using your images to amplify a message?
I use my images to show the complexity of the Black experience, especially during this moment. This includes moments of family, individuality, sexuality, pain, grief, hopefulness, intelligence, vulnerability, sensitivity, masculinity and femininity.
6. What message(s) do you hope your photos will tell for years to come?
That beyond the obstacles we face- COVID, unemployment, we have seen an awakening that is unifying all kinds of people together. It’s crazy! We have the Amish, Witches, Queers, White People, Black People, Asians, Natives, all religious faiths, celebrities, and more unifying together! I want my images to show this unity. That this moment is profound and that can create a world we all want to live in peacefully. It is possible.
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