The Quiet Moments Matter

So it’s protest day 312 today. Well, not really, but it feels like it.

Amazingly I managed to avoid actually shooting any of the protests over the last week in part because I was off doing other things (midterms are no fun) and I really didn’t want to go up there in the first place.
But yesterday was different. Why? Well, there was actually nice lighting yesterday. And I was bored. And I hadn’t used my camera in a few days — which is never good.

I trudged my way up to the Capitol, expecting some large crowds. To my surprise (and luck), there were only a few hundred people.

By this point in time, protest photos are getting pretty old. Every media outlet has them. Any Joe Schmoe who’s been at the protests has their photos and has subsequently shared them with hundreds of people on Facebook. More or less, photos of the protests are well past the point of saturation.

My goal with going to the Capitol yesterday was to do a sort of mental exercise with my camera. Wading through the thousands of photos over the past two weeks, one thing I’ve noticed is the vast majority of photos have focused on one of two things (things I’m totally guily of).
First, these pictures focus on the crowd. Either because the photographer is thinking, “Holy crap, there are a lot of people here,” or, “Holy crap, I better show the viewer there are lot of people here.” Both of these things are important in their own respect, but not really anymore. Everyone knows a lot of people are there.
Secondly, a lot of people love paying attention to the signs. I do it too (much more than I’d like to). Basically throwing a sign in the picture is like overlaying a caption on the image. It gives the viewer context and makes them look at the picture just a little bit longer. But, also, at this point in the game, the signs have been analyzed, studied, laughed at or ridiculed. No reason to add to it (and yes, I definitely broke my own rule on the shoot yesterday).

So, what I set out to do was capture the quiet moments in-between the yelling, marching and arguing. Not many photographers have been doing this (except Craig Schreiner, but that is because he is a photog god among men…his protest photos have been far and away the best I’ve seen).

I wanted to focus on moments like these. The police officers I think have definitely been overlooked the past couple weeks. They have more or less kept order and done a marvelous job of not giving the protestors anything to complain about in terms of violating rights. However, to me, these officers have a very lonely job. And in many ways, they are on an island with their fellow officers. When I saw this scene I stopped for about 5 minutes, and snapped about 8-10 frames as their expressions and body posture changed. Pretty happy with how it turned out.

Here is another moment I thought to be especially poignant, while at the same time odd. A family photo. In front of the Capitol. With protest signs hanging off Lady Forward. And a mother throwing up the “solidarity” fist. I found this moment interesting because I’m definitely of the opinion that children have no place at these protests. I understand the difficulties of getting someone to watch your kids while your off doing your civic duty, but come on (and the argument of “I’m being a good parent by teaching them democracy” is pretty lame). These kids have no idea what’s going on. They don’t know why mom’s yelling and carrying a sign and they certainly don’t know why that one guy over there has a circle of people yelling back at him. So to take a family photo of this whole confusing mess seems especially odd to me. I can’t think of a less “family” event than a protest.

This next picture is where I break my rule. I only took a photo of this guy because of his sign. He spelled November without the “b.” I mean, how could I not? The guy is an idiot for going to an anti-Walker protest to support Walker and then spell his sign wrong. The stereotype of tea-partiers is that they are dumb, and this certainly didn’t help their cause. Ok, moving on…


I LOVE COLOR. Ya, that’s why I took this photo. Also, old people staring off into space is so eloquent (can that adjective be applied in this context? I have no idea). This is kind of a nice moment, right? Meh, it’s ok.

This isn’t technically a “quiet” moment — the guy was yelling into a megaphone — but to me it definitely had the feeling of it because no one, and I mean no one was paying attention to him. He probably lost all legitimacy when he included many memorable quotes from The Big Lebowski such as, “This aggression will not stand, man.” The strip of light does a nice job of isolating him, because he certainly was isolated in real life.

Now this, this is the kind of quiet in-between moment I’d been searching for all day. No idea what that sign is for or why a donations bucket is hanging off on the left (on a side note, the donation-bucket-sign-thing sat outside where most of Madison’s homeless love hanging out…I’m going to guess those donations didn’t go where they were supposed to go).
Besides the great light streaking across the photo, I love this woman’s expression. I think I snapped off over 10 frames of her in the few moments she stood there because she kept looking at the sign so incredulously. Maybe she was wondering why the donation bucket was hanging there as well. I don’t know. All I know is this photo has some nice layers of symbolic meaning…to me the sign symbolizes the mess that Wisconsin is in, but also the interconnectedness of its citizens. And the woman’s curious face is the rest of the country, wondering what this means for the future, and what Walker’s policy will do as far as government precedent.
I guess that’s my Art Interpretation 101 discussion for the day.

I probably won’t get to update my blog again until probably next week because I’ll be in Miami for spring break. However, expect super colorful, warm and tan photos for the next post…

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3 thoughts on “The Quiet Moments Matter

  1. Good stuff. And I agree with you that protests are no place for children. They can’t make any rational decisions about what’s going on. You can tell them the protests are for outlawing eating grapes on a Tuesday, and they’ll be just as excited.

    Leave them at home watching Spongebob.

  2. Thanks, Matt. Another problem is it creates unnecessary divides in the minds of children…they are obviously going to side with their parents, and they will, generally, have no idea why.

    Spongebob taught me more about the world than I’ll probably ever know.

  3. interesting… Can we just say that the whole thing is stupid on both sides. One can’t spell and no one listens to the other; pointless. Lets accept that there was an election and the Dems lost their house. Lets get busy doing something that could matter, work for the next election. Possibly the most important thing, I feel, coming out of this is that a lot of people who didnt vote before will now get their butt off the chair and vote. Possible many more poeple will be involved in the efforts of the next election. Posible that the voting war is on…

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