There was another protest today, along the lines of the tax day tea party, this time on the capitol steps. And much smaller, maybe 200-300 people, if that.
I’m going to break mode here for a second and talk about photojournalism. Obviously I’m not a photojournalist, but in a sense anyone who shoots any kind of current event is a photojournalist in their own right — at least to the same level that bloggers are columnists. There have been debates, for longer than I’ve been alive, over whether photojournalists should let their own views and biases show through the lens. Personally, I think that’s the only honest way to do it. The fact is, we all have biases. If we go out of our way to strip our vision of this bias, we’re sterilizing our photos and rendering them flat, without the benefit our own emotion, our personal take on the issue at hand. Is it fair to the subject? Probably not. But I believe it’s the only way we can be fair to the audience.
With that said, I don’t really understand these people. They seem to be protesting a whole host of things, with no coherent, consolidated message. They’re simultaneously anti-tax, pro-Ron Paul, Second Amendment defenders, anti-Obama, anti-immigration, nationalistic, anti-socialist, anti-communist, Randian, anarchistic, isolationist, pro-war, anti-war, and pro-legalization of marijuana, among many, many other confusing messages. This is a group who says they’re a grassroots organization, but truthfully spurred and organized by Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, and other notable conservative personalities. In short, I just don’t get it, and messages like “global warming is a fraud” or paeans to Ayn Rand (whose political philosophy is entirely morally and intellectually bankrupt) simply don’t help their cause.
So yes, I hold these gatherings in a bit of contempt. That said, I don’t intentionally set out to shoot the worst of the worst. These are people exercising their civic right to gather and I respect that. I would never want them to stop doing this. But what it comes down to is I’m trying to capture what I believe these people are trying to express. And honestly, truthfully, I believe these are overwhelmingly middle class conservative white men who are expressing fear at a changing world — a black man in the White House, a growing nonwhite American population, a youth that is increasingly liberal, a failing conservative “trickle down” and lassiez-faire economic system, a society that is continuing to accept foreigners who speak in accents or not in English at all. They are afraid of losing the privilege they’ve lived with all their lives, and afraid of what they’ll have to do in a world where they’re not automatically at an advantage, or worse: a world where they’re treated as they’ve treated others.
These people are not happy. The gatherings are not celebrations, they are not joyful potluck get-togethers of people who share a common cause. They are not like, to use recent examples, the counterprotest of Westboro Baptist Church in Albany or Capital Pride. Those events were full of smiling, joyous people who were united under the same banner. These “liberty” protests are nothing like that, they are quiet, sallow, and frankly simultaneously scary and boring. There are few smiles. There are few hugs or handshakes. I believe these people are frightened, irrational, and dangerous. I am not afraid of them per se, but worried about them. I don’t think they as a group can do any real harm, but lone wolves may be able to cause terrifying damage, like the murderer of George Tiller.
The end result of this is that I probably will not cover another one of these events. They are simply not fun and not interesting. At first I enjoyed the shock and humor of some of the messages, but now that I realize how seriously these people take themselves, it’s not as entertaining anymore. There is a very limited range of human emotion displayed, and simply little of note to photograph. I do look forward to shooting other local events, though; there are some great groups and organizations in the area who do amazing work.