An open letter to white photographers covering Black Lives Matter protests

Tips & Techniques

I am from Minneapolis. This is in regards to posting photos of protesters and to be mindful + protect them!

As a photographer, I believe it is my responsibility to document this movement, this turning point in history. We are living through the continuation of the civil rights struggle. I believe anyone who considers themself an ally has a duty to contribute to this righteous cause in whatever manner they have the ability to. This is mine.

BUT…

As a white person there are also many other responsibilities that it is imperative that I consider:

  • I MUST NOT diminish the experience of others, especially the POC leaders taking a stand.
  • I MUST NOT fill space that would be better served filled with faces and voices of color.
  • I MUST understand that I am an invited guest to these protests and not insert myself where others are more appropriate.
  • I MUST allow photographers of color the opportunity to document their movement in any way they see fit, before me if possible.
  • I MUST respect the crowd: its needs, emotions, and especially individual members.
  • I MUST critically examine my content before posting, taking time to settle and digest before sending images out into the world without considering their impact.
  • I MUST NOT be afraid to take critique, criticism, or suggestion of change from the black community. They are the ones driving this movement and they are the ones who must be heard.
  • I MUST NOT act as though I am entitled to create these images. I will ask permission to photograph, post, and respect the wishes of my subjects without ego or resistance. I will not watermark or seek credit. I am doing this for the historical value, not for clout or fame.
  • I MUST NOT sell these photos. This is non-negotiable. I refuse to capitalize off of the suffering of others. These images are for the people, so that their struggle cannot be ignored.

People of color, if there is anything you feel needs to be added to this list please tell me.

This is my oath as a white photographer doing her best to be an ally and a participant in a pure, genuine, transparent, and vulnerable manner. I encourage all other white folks attempting to document this moment to take this oath with me.

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.

-Rosa Parks

About the Author

Grace Stillman is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota currently documenting the protests happening in her city. If you want to help, Grace recommends visiting the Minnesota Freedom Fund.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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