Since the death of George Floyd in May 2020, communities all around the world have taken to the streets in protest and solidarity with the Floyd family, as well as many other victims of systemic racism around the world. Although the Black Lives Matter protests began in the US back in May, the issues discussed in these events have resonated with the global community. These include topics of police brutality, gentrification, past and modern slavery, capitalism and education. As a result, we have seen demonstrations around the world, from the US and Brazil, to Senegal and Japan.
However, while some are using their voices (in poetry and music) to get their messages across, many artists and photographers have also taken steps to highlight the importance of creative visual activism. Despite the negative media coverage of the protestors, there have been many photographers within the community that are capturing moments which exude strength, resilience and – most of all – the desire for peace and equality.
This article shows my top five personal favourite photographers who have captured some of the most powerful moments in the UK-based protests which took place in June 2020.
Sama Kai Sundifu (@official_kaicapture)
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George Floyd cried out “Please, I can’t breath”… now we have a message for them! We will scream it from the top of our lungs until they hear us! ✊🏾 #blacklivesmatter #justiceforgeorgefloyd #icantbreathe #stopkillingblackpeople #stopkillingthemandem #georgefloyd #nojusticenopeace
Recently published by The Love Magazine (online and print editions), Kai is perhaps the most prominent photographer in the UK BLM movement. Kai is consistently present in many of the protests around Central London, and his work shows the passion, optimism and determination of the protesters. His black and white photographs are particularly effective in highlighting the dynamics of the protesters, foregoing the distracting nature of colour for the benefit of the action.
Henry J Kamara (@jaykammy)
Henry’s work on the BLM protests spans over the first two weeks of June, showing the tension between the black community and the police around the London suburbs during the weeks of protest. Many of Henry’s photographs focus on the perspective of police officers, both when dealing with individuals on the street, and with protesters. One particularly harrowing photo is the one above, of the police officer holding a police dog’s leash as the dog bares its teeth away from the camera. This, in my opinion, does little to show the officer’s stance amongst the protests, but one can’t help but feel uncomfortable by the violence in the dog’s demeanour.
Misan Harriman (@misanharriman)
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Grace Pearce, 17, fashion student. ‘The scary thing about this incident is that we might not have known about it if it wasn’t filmed. It shows there could be so many other events that we don’t know about around the world. That makes me feel angry and helpless. I’m here because every person counts and it’s important to make a statement and support your Black brothers and sisters. Via @graziauk @kenyahunt @itsmeannasilverman #racism #antiracism #justiceforgeorgefloyd #justiceforbreonnataylor #justiceforbellymujinga #shotbymisan #misanharriman #apartheid #civilrights @grace.pearce
I am so glad I came across Misan’s work, not just because of his extensive BLM protests’ photo-series, but because it allowed me to discover his portraiture work, which has quickly become one of my favourites. Many of his BLM photographs are strong in their message (see the ‘Dykes for BLM’ and ‘Say their Names T-shirt’ photos), but the one that struck with me most is the one I have linked here. This photograph shows 17-year-old Grace Pearse highlighting the importance of remembering the victims we may never know about, because – as the poster she holds says – ‘what if there wasn’t a video’ to tell their story?
Tommy Sussex (@tommy_sussex)
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Emotions run high at Sunday’s anti-racism protests in London. Time was taken to reflect after a list of black people killed whilst in police custody in the U.K was delivered outside the U.S Embassy. #London #Racism #GeorgeFloyd #Blacklivesmatter #Protest #Reform #Police #Policebrutality #2020Rankin
Tommy’s photographs were featured in the New Stateman Magazine, where he describes how ‘the spirit of unity, solidarity and equality has risen through the current transnational anti-racism movement’ (2020). Tommy documents the protesters in action, both through his photography work and by including words from the protesters he captures. Personally, I appreciate this process, as it gives a voice to the people and allows them to explain the ways in which issues discussed through the BLM Movement affect us individually and as a community.
Imran Suleiman (@suledigital)
Imran’s work on the BLM protests is very limited, I admit. But it is this particular photograph that makes me include him in my Top 5 regardless. Everything, from the clothing and Black Power fist to the colour tones works to remind the audience that these protests and the work that happens behind-the-scenes is not a recent occurrence. This photograph seems straight out of the sixties but, to me, the difference lies in the one Black man standing tall while surrounded by a community of white men and women showing their support. The multiculturalism of the current protests – which is rarely seen in photographs of the sixties – has a powerful effect on the Movement, showing the community’s collective fight towards equality.
Unfortunately, the UK Black Lives Matter Movement does not boast a lot of photography work, especially in comparison to its US counterpart. With that in mind – do you have any UK BLM protests’ photographers you think deserve more exposure? Let us know via our socials!