I’m originally from Birmingham, Alabama, but I’ve been based in Atlanta since 2014. Back home, the market for photographers is smaller, and it was saturated with white male photographers. I didn’t identify with anyone there, when it came to commercial and editorial work. That’s why I decided to move to Atlanta—to find a different community, to work with photographers who were other races, not just white.
Now, I usually shoot editorial work—often for USA Today, the New York Times and NPR. I’ve also done projects about the Gullah Geechee culture, who are located on the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I’ve done projects about the Negro Baseball League, and I’ve been to New Orleans to take pictures of the Mardi Gras Indians. My personal work has been centered around Black life and how we celebrate it.
I’ve been shooting the protests in Atlanta since the afternoon of May 29th. Black photographers are important here. There’s a sense of compassion [in those images] because you, as the photographer, might have experienced something that the other person has experienced as well. We’re not reaching for any goal other than to preserve our culture. And this moment is very precious to us. We don’t want anybody to skew the narrative about our reasons for being at a protest. Having our visual voice in place makes this moment more impactful.
I listen before I photograph. I’m a former public speaking instructor—I would teach my students to listen before you talk, because if you don’t, you can miss the most important aspect of a person or an event. When I go to a protest, I’m listening to what’s going on around me—I’m listening to the chants, I’m listening to the music that’s being played. I usually like to stay in the back of a crowd—1, because it’s more dispersed and 2, just for safety precautions. When you’re walking in the back of the group, you’re able to talk to people a little bit more. Being humble enough to listen to someone else’s story is very important—you find out that you have similar joys, similar pains.
There’s a distinct difference between listening and hearing, because you can hear me all day, but you have to have the intent to listen. And it has to be genuine. It has to come from a place of humility, rather than [someone] coming to a protest to photograph for the potential awards. I don’t care about that stuff. In this moment, there are photographers—basically white photographers—who are not listening, who are only looking for the glory of the photo rather than pursuing the mission that’s at hand. That mission, of course, is to eradicate racism, to eradicate white supremacy, to remove all of these things that have been on the backs of Black folks for centuries.
Being able to be in the midst of other Black photographers, Black female photographers, Black non-binary photographers—that’s history in itself. How many of us can actively say that we’ve seen this many Black photographers documenting an issue that is about us? Even when you think about the civil rights movement, Black photographers were few and far between.This past Saturday, I went to three different protests. The one that resonated with me most was the one that dealt with Black trans lives. That definitely goes under the radar in this movement—along with Black women’s lives. Not only am I Black, but I’m Black, queer, and a woman, and every situation I go into, I bring my full identity. We’re trying to fight for everybody, not just one particular group. We have to understand that Black men’s lives, Black women’s lives, Black Trans lives, Black LGBTQIA lives: They all matter.