I promised that I'd share my first attempt at photojournalism, and with Trayvon Martin's tragedy on the national news each night, the story behind my images is particularly apropos.
A year ago in February, Native American woodcarver John T Williams was fatally shot by a police officer. Williams was walking home with some wood and a carving knife when the police officer mistook him for a threat and killed him. To celebrate Williams' life and memorialize his death, the Native American community got together to carve a memorial totem pole. On the 1-year anniversary of the tragedy, the community met again, this time to move the completed 30-foot totem pole to its final destination: Seattle Center, right under the Space Needle.
Lots of people, from all walks of life, from many Native American nations all join together to get this monument moved. As angry as everyone was at the police officer who screwed up, it was a joyful occasion despite the solemnity.
That's not to say that everyone was happy. The event had a family reunion feel to it, and all the emotional range that family get-togethers can bring out. While the leaders encouraged everyone to not let negative energy taint the day, I did overhear some things
that gave me pause. "65,000 people show up for a Seahawks game, but only 200 can show up when a fellow human dies?"
I never saw an actual talley of the attendees, and I'd say that quite a sizable chunk of them were photographers. It was great to record the raising of the first memorial totem pole to be carved in Seattle in 70 years, but where was the coast-to-coast media coverage when Williams was killed?
As for the day itself, it was my first time trying photojournalism. I never studied this genre of photography, other than remembering Weegee's famous quote about consistently getting good images: "F/8 and be there." I was there, but I can't remember if I used f/8 that much.
I enjoyed photographing the event, but my strongest memories are when I packed the camera up and actually participated. I helped carry the totem pole for a stretch of the mile and a half between where it was carved and where is was erected. When I make photographs, I always feel like I'm on the outside looking in, never actually part of what I'm photographing. I always feel like I'm missing out by just watching and recording.
Maybe it boils down to the language of photography. We take pictures. We capture images. It's always a transaction from someone else to the photographer. The language doesn't easily allow a photographer to give back, to have an equal give-and-take transaction.
Anyway, I'm going to try and find a way to get more participation and photography in the future. I enjoyed photographing the event as much as I enjoyed participating in it, but I'm definitely more proud of the latter. I'm glad after the fact that I photographed it--John T Williams' story needs to get out as much as possible, and without photographers willing to stay on the outside and look in, the story can't be shared.
This last photo was made two weeks after the ceremony. It's at the Space Needle, there are always people around, but I had to wait 10 minutes for some curious passers-by to actually examine the totem pole. As of two weeks ago, there was no plaque or tablet or anything explaining the significance of the totem pole that just showed up at the Space Needle one warm weekend in February.