I went to undergrad at UC Berkeley, and one of my non-science required courses was in protest movements. We had to protest something peacefully as part of our grade, and it taught me the importance of a) giving a shit and b) how when enough people do, great things can happen.
A few months back, when the Occupy movement started to take shape outside of Wall Street and women and men began to join forces and hands to question the practices of our local and national government, I wanted to better understand how people were making their way despite the general doomsday outlook that was prevalent in the media’s retelling of the financial and political situation.
I found that the de facto forum of dissent, We Are the 99 Percent, had an underlying tone of community uprising and fellowship that, to me at least, had been previously overlooked. College grads were moving back in with their parents and helping pay the mortgage and their student loans; single mothers were trading babysitting duties; those who had a little bit more were helping those with a little bit less. This was the story I was interested in and the one I wanted to learn more about.
I asked two friends who I’ve photographed alongside in the LA music scene - Joey Maloney and Matt Draper - to embark on a one day portrait project in the heart of the Occupy LA movement, on City Hall in Downtown Los Angeles. With the help of a generous grant from When You Wish, we were able to set up a little studio to take portraits of the protesters and observers, while engaging them in dialogue about the movement, their life, their community, and how they were making do with less.
I realized that the time of narcissism and small-mindedness (if there ever was a time) is certainly over. This project and the reports of people across the country standing linked in peaceful protest reminded me of those old days at Berkeley and the strength that comes from helping each other in small, meaningful ways.
I hope you find something interesting in the photos and stories of the Occupy LA Portrait Project. If you do, please pass it along.
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