Photography and Protest: From Black Lives Matter to G20

Police presence at the G20 Summit protests in 2010.

Police presence at the G20 Summit protests in 2010.

Black Lives Matter – Whether you agree or disagree with the movement, its reach has been both impactful and ubiquitous. As Canadians, it’s tough to watch our American neighbors stumble through this and, at the same time, very easy for us to shake our collective heads in disappointment (smh). To say that race, religion and gun control are contentious issues in America would be a massive understatement and any attempt to understand what's going on will require a little history lesson.    

With that said, I am not here to push my political opinion, so I digress. I am here to talk about the role photography plays in social and political unrest – specifically capturing protests.

Many of history’s most powerful protest moments have been captured on film – from the 1968 Olympic Black Power salute to the infamous Tienanmen Square (man vs. tank) protests, these images will be forever referenced and have been ingrained in our psyches. In 2015, we saw Baltimore photographer Devin Allen vault into the spotlight for his compelling coverage of the protests following the death of Freddie Gray which ultimately landed him on the cover of Time Magazine. And more recently, we have seen photos surface from various BLM protest such as the “woman in the dress” during protests in Louisiana. 

So what do these photos mean? Well, like many things, it depends on who you ask. For me, capturing protests is twofold. First, it provides access to the “front lines.” It allows people, who otherwise weren’t physically there, to be there (well, sort of). And secondly, it educates and challenges people to question the status quo. I wasn’t in Baltimore in 2015 but seeing those images gave me a front row seat to the struggle and, in turn, made me dig deeper and do some research on the issues.  

Now, I’ve been running around photographing the city way before it was a “thing”, and in my 10+ years of shooting, nothing will come close to what I witnessed during the G20 protest of 2010. 

Given current events, I thought it was the right time to re-visit my G20 protest photos. For those who don’t know or were perhaps too young to remember, the G20 leaders met in downtown Toronto (yes, the downtown core!) to discuss the state of the global financial system and world economy. In theory, a decent idea (okay, not really) but given the state of the system at that time, a large protest movement emerged and eventually all hell broke loose (read more here).

Looking back at these photos, I chose to document the police presence and how they interacted with the protesters. I also wanted to capture the protesters themselves and how they interacted not only with each other, but how they reacted to the massive police presence. Are these Time Magazine worthy? Hardly, but they put viewers in a unique moment that will never happen again and I hope it urges readers to dig deeper and find out why these protests happened and why they might happen somewhere else in the near future.

Anyways, I’ll stop rambling and let the images speak for themselves (click to enlarge!) but feel free to drop me line if you have any questions about my experience.