More than a month after George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police officer in Minneapolis, these images of the May 31st San Diego protest still resonate with me. I am still blown away by the militaristic response of the San Diego Police, the diversity of the crowd and how there were many peaceful protesters.
I don’t want to admit this, because it is pretty embarrassing, but in the middle of the protest at the courthouse, my Fujifilm x100t fell out of my pocket. Right before the 8 minutes of silence commemorating George Floyd’s death.
After frantically looking for it, I went to the front of the crowd and started blindly asking if anyone had found it. Luckily enough, two people in, the group of men in the impromptu marching band said someone was asking if anyone had lost a camera. The pointed me in her general direction and every 10 feet I would ask who ever made eye contact with me. Reached the back of the crowd, no luck.
Then I hear “Is anyone looking for a camera??” far behind at the front of the crowd. I jostled through the crowd and found her, a sweet angel holding my camera! I gave her a big sticky hug and thanked her with tears in my eyes.
In that same crowd of people, several hours later, the protest had moved to the streets. We were walking down from Little Italy, down toward Horton plaza. Police in riot gear herded the crowd down one street, while forces slowly closed in from side streets, surrounding us. Chaos reigned as people realized the police were closing in, advancing slowly, deliberately. Their menacing presence was amplified by the armored vehicle, a dark void of violence surrounded by the never ending scattering of blue and red lights. Notice how they call themselves peace officers now?
A Starbucks window was already shattered as the group advanced. A young man in a hoodie sprayed “fuck 12” on the remaining windows while another protester shouted at him to stop. “Yo! Stop! We’re not about that shit!” He ignored her, finished his tag and moved on to the next wall. After the police had taken over side streets, someone in the crowd began directing traffic. Residents in BMW, Maserati’s and Audi’s were trying to get into their penthouses. The police activity prevented them, yelling between protesters on the street and the driver of the BMW began. He was only trying to tell them they won’t be able to get to their house. A minute later the beemer zoomed off, gunning the accelerator to signify his anger, scaring some people on the street.
Not long after, the protest fizzled out. The crowd had lost its fervor. As I walked back to the trolley, an astonishing amount of police cruisers, SUV’s, unmarked SWAT vehicles, armored transports, trucks were swarming the Old Town station. No one knew what was happened. Later, I heard rumors of people getting swooped up into vehicles.
I’ve been in the middle of a re-branding and I found these pictures way deep in the recesses of my google photos account.
This is from when I attended San Francisco State University for Fine Art photography in 2008. It was the first time I moved away from home, young, stupid and incredibly naive. My first digital camera was a d70 and a kit lens, but I brought that thing everywhere.
I lived in a bottom floor 2 bedroom flat on the corner 18th Street and Mission, the perfect spot for the four of us babies. We spent all our time together, roaming around San Francisco, drinking cheap beer and going to Dolores Park everyday. Those were the halcyon days, I only lived there for two years before I moved down to Oceanside (for a stupid boy who wasted my time), but I look back on those days fondly. I don’t see these beautiful ladies as much as I like, I left the city way too soon and I think my regret tainted my relationships. But that’s life right? Sometimes you make stupid huge moves for the wrong reasons. I think, I wasn’t mature enough to exist there and succeed– and it was a beautiful place during a beautiful time when the city was vibrant, weird and full of artists.
I remember getting ready for work and listening to the bus stop right out our window. The city was never quiet, but sometimes the noise was breathtaking – moving back to the silent country hills of Vista was so starkly different.
What I have here is a gallery of the solidarity protest that was held on November 25, 2018. The protest took place early that hot November morning, peacefully demonstrating on the American side of the San Ysidro border. The protest began in Larsen Field, right across the street from the Outlet of the Americas and marched to the pedestrian border crossing. There were many different groups in attendance including Pueblas Sin Fronteras, Border Angels, the American Indian Movement (AIM) to name a few.
That day was a very intense day for me; not because of the protest, but because of everything that had happened within a few hours time. As I was leaving the area, I had a few hic-ups that delayed my departure back home (I had to be in downtown Oceanside at 4 p.m. for a shift)–I noticed I was dangerously low on gas and tried to use my backup gallon in the back of the Jeep and I broke the plastic spout trying to get it to work–eventually a nice Spanish-speaking couple helped me.
Once I was on the the road and headed back up north through Dairy Cart Road–I noticed Border Patrol agents speeding between traffic headed toward the border. While on the bridge that connects to the 5 North I saw that the south-bound highway leading to the border was completely empty. Not a car in sight.
I was going north right as the Border Patrol had closed the border because of the migrants breaking through and rushing to the American side. That was the craziest part; during the protest there was an energy of peace and strength–the frantic energy that I experienced later was not apart of the demonstration.
This was my first time independently covering a protest, and I tried to prepare as best as possible, but I have a few thoughts and lessons that I learned
What I did right
1. First, I did my research.
I looked up different articles about protest photography and read them for tips and tricks. At the same time I absorbed as much information as I could while looking at the photography that the articles were featuring and made note of how they looked.
2. Charged my batteries and prepared my gear.
I have several backup batteries for both my fujifilm x100t and my nikon d750. I cleaned the lens’s, blew out dust from the sensor and cleared all of my memory cards. I only used prime lenses (35mm and 85mm respectively) because, let’s be honest, I can’t afford those fancy zoom lenses yet.
3. Researched travel time, cost of gas, places to park– the night before.
I knew where I could park, close to the protest, but with a form of escape in case of a road closure or other activity. I am not a morning person so it is really hard for me to wake up in a speedy manner; I was running late as the protest started at 9, and I got there around 9:30. Luckily there wasn’t much happening that early and I didn’t miss much. Because of my tardiness I didn’t fill up my tank of gas right away when I should’ve–if I had to leave the area quickly I would have been in a lot of trouble.
4. Wasn’t afraid to get in people’s faces for photographs.
This part is hard for me. I am a shy person by nature, if I could have it my way I would have no one in my photographs ever. I don’t always like photographs without people and I know that pushing yourself and your boundaries are the only way to grow and get better. I found that of the photographs that I am the most proud of were the ones with people in them.
5. Recorded names and gentle background for captioning.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try and farm out these photographs to news services and publications but I got most of names of the people I photographed. I should’ve gone into detail more, but that is for the improvements list.
6. Created connections with the participants
I interacted with the protesters and exchanged contact information with a few organizations. I need to follow up with them and maintain the connection.
1. Full tank of gas
I woke up late and wanted to get down there as soon as possible. Unfortunately my Jeep Wrangler has the all-terrain tires on that makes my gas mileage 12 miles a gallon and I pushed the empty tank light as close as I was comfortable with. It meant I had to wrestle with a plastic gas tank I was unfamiliar with, poorly made and easily broke. If I had another assignment or a tighter deadline I would’ve been in trouble.
2. Made a stronger connection with a few people, to really tell their story.
I walked into the protest with no idea what to expect and I told myself I would be simply documenting–a getting your feet wet if you will. I want to become stronger with my storytelling and seperate myself from the daily’s – a accurate portrait would be ideal.
3. Push past my feeling of uncomfortably.
Sometimes when I have the camera I sense this innate hostility–maybe I am projecting (I hate photographs of myself) but I always feel timid shoving my camera in peoples faces. I have to admit I photographed people’s faces at the limit of my comfort. Next time, I strive to push past that.
4. Shoot some video.
It’s the future, man. I’ve noticed that video is in demand from photographers and there are ways to get your clips out on social media and paid by news outlets quickly, if you post and spread it within the appropriate news-cycle.
As for everything else; all I can say is that I learned a lot. I know I have a million ways to improve and I am not even going to pretend like I know enough about this subject to declare mastery–I’m just learning and trying to figure it out the best way possible just like everyone else.