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Number 1 Shimbun

FCCJ Exhibition: Mic Check Photos by Rob Gerhardt


Exhibition details

In late 2014, protesters began gathering in New York City over the exoneration of the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Shortly afterward, a second Grand Jury considering the death of Eric Garner led to the same outcome. Protesters continued to take to the streets for a long litany of names and the protests also included events to remember those from earlier incidents, such as Trayvon Martin and Amadou Diallo.

New York never saw scenes like those that played out in Ferguson or Baltimore. The police never used tear gas, heavily armored police vehicles never rolled through the streets, and people were not confronted by police with weapons drawn who looked more like soldiers than cops. But there were masses of protestors. There were times traffic was blocked on major streets and bridges. Insults and profanities were hurled back and forth. There were arrests. There were signs. There were chants of every kind.

My work has always been on the edge of journalism, documentary, and art. This way of working has put me in an odd space: too journalistic for the art world, and a bit too arty for the journalists. As a result, while my work has been published, it is more likely to be seen on the gallery walls of colleges and universities.

I use my work to try to start conversations. I know that just seeing my photographs is not going to change a viewer’s mind. Very few photographs have that power. It is not an epiphany I am trying to create, but a way to get people thinking and talking. And to me that is what good journalism is: not telling people what to think but giving them the facts and information to think on their own.

The arc of history is a long one, and when things are viewed through the passage of time, the truly important events and movements stand out. And the Black Lives Matter movement, as a new chapter in the greater Civil Rights Movement, already is a part of history. This will not be the final chapter in the struggle for equal rights, but as the movement morphs into whatever is coming next, I will be there with my cameras to document that as well.

Rob Gerhardt is a social documentary photographer based in Brooklyn. His work has been in numerous solo and group exhibitions and has been published internationally, including in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Diplomat and the Hong Kong Free Press. He is a member of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club, Hong Kong.

Published in: February 2020

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