World Photo Day, the annual celebration of photography, is in its sixth year. This is Denverite’s first chance to join in, and we thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at just one frame.
It was July 7, and Black Lives Matter activists had gathered outside the State Capitol in protest and solidarity in the wake of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in prior days. Tay Anderson, student body president at Manual High School, rounded up the crowd and led them in an impromptu march down the 16th Street Mall, all the way to the Millennium Bridge. It would be another hour or so before the nation heard about the shooting of 14 police officers in Dallas.
I captured this moment as Patricia Williams and other protestors passed the Tilted Kilt by the clocktower. Terry Berry, visiting from Kansas, stood up to yell, “Get a real Job!” A man who asked to remain anonymous behind Berry could be heard yelling, “If they weren’t criminals, they wouldn’t get shot.”
I think this is an interesting and important bit of documentation because it stands as a symbol for a lot of the larger issues that drove Williams and Berry to interact. It speaks to rising tensions and a propensity for confrontation. It speaks to fear, anger and a great divide between people. I think it’s interesting that there’s a literal rail between these clashing ideologues.
From a technical standpoint, the off-camera flash I used helps to isolate the two subjects. You get the visual context, but only they are illuminated. Amidst all of the chaos happening in the street, a microcosm that stands for the larger conflict is saved in a freeze frame with the help of a microsecond’s worth of blinding light.
I was using my Speedlite’s built-in wide panel diffuser and bounce card to light a large swath of the scene with softer light than comes straight out of the flash. My focus ring was gaff-taped near infinity so it wouldn’t move. I needed to do this because I was shooting with my right hand and wildly flailing the flash around in my outstretched left, trying to get some distance away from the camera. I always love a little side light. I was shooting at a F5.6 so more of the frame would be in focus.
Reflecting on this, I thought maybe I was lucky to nail the shot. That’s probably a little true, but now I think that the setup contributed to my ability to catch this interaction as it happened. Everything was set. All I had to do was fire.