Welcome back to photojournalist Patrick Farrell's weekly feature, The Sunday Still. Along with this week's selection, I'm including Farrel's selects from the past several weeks. Farrell selects one image each week that showcases the best photojournalism by photojournalists from around the world. The feature runs weekly in The Sunday Long Read. The goal of the newsletter, edited by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jacob Feldman, is to put the week’s best journalism in your hands every Sunday morning.
THE ASSIGNMENT ALSO RISES
Faced with empty arenas, canceled events and other nonstarters, photojournalists this summer are taking on tough assignments to make something from nothing. Reuters photographer Jon Nazca rose to the challenge in Spain by holding up photos from last year’s running of the bulls in the same Pamplona locations, effectively conveying the first cancellation of the famous San Fermin festival since the 1930s. The July 7 photo illustrations contrast quiet streets and squares with hand-held printed images that are raucous and full of life – a resourceful response to a pandemic forcing shooters to think outside the frame.
Photographing street protests is challenging enough, but it becomes even more so when an AR-15 rifle and a shiny semiautomatic pistol are pointed at you. Reuters photographer Lawrence Bryant was doubly challenged when a Black Lives Matter protest he was covering June 28 turned into a confrontation with barefoot, gun-waving homeowners Mark and Patricia McCloskey outside their 18,000-square-foot mansion in St. Louis, Missouri. Bryant, carrying only one camera, risked being confused with protestors and snapped a series of unnerving breaking news images that lit up partisan divides, with deeper symbolism about guns, race and private property vs. public space. “I just was trying to make frames,” Bryant said. “Trying to stay safe, trying to dodge the barrel of the gun and stay out of sight and out of line. I’m a big, Black man and I always have to pay attention to that anyway.”
AAt 60 feet, the Robert E. Lee Monument in the center of Richmond is too massive to topple. With its fate now in the courts as lawsuits challenge Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s decision to remove the stone-and-bronze statue, the one-time symbol of the Confederate Capital has been transformed by Black Lives Matter protesters into a canvas for graffiti, a performance venue for video projections and gospel concerts, and a makeshift court for pick-up basketball. Style Weekly Photography Editor Scott Elmquist captured the public takeover in a riveting Juneteenth photo that shows Melachi Cobbs in mid-dunk against an attempted block by his cousin, Myles Bradley Cobbs. The peak playground moment amid swirling social change is made even more dramatic against an ominous gray sky, with daylight bouncing off the statue’s transformed base. The vignette is reminiscent of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer John H. White’s moving photos of Black Chicago life in the 1970s for the Environmental Protection Agency’s DOCUMERICA project. Like White’s masterful photos, Elmquist’s image conveys the everyday life conquest of joy in the moment.
A solitary Pride Flag and the majestic U.S. Supreme Court building came together for the photo of the week in Washington, D.C., on June 15, when Reuters photographer Tom Brenner waited for the decisive moment to capture the jubilation of runner Joseph Fons as he celebrated the court’s ruling protecting LGBTQ+ workers. The monochromatic background of the towering courthouse and pastel blue sky draw all eyes to the colorful statement of the rippling flag’s rainbow colors piercing through the middle of the photograph. Brenner’s wide perspective conveys the magnitude of the moment and a movement’s victory.
The power of the still image is that sometimes a photographer can show us what we don’t see or what we need to see. Shooting for The Fayetteville Observer, photographer Melissa Sue Gerrits spotted this ethereal moment on June 6 outside of Cape Fear Conference B Church, where thousands of people lined up for a memorial for George Floyd near his North Carolina birthplace, as his body traveled through there from Minneapolis, where he died in police custody, on the way to Houston, where he grew up. Gerrits’ remarkable photograph is one of many in “How Black Lives Matter Reached Every Corner of America,” a fascinating interactive display of the movement published by The New York Times that marries images, data and the poetic words of national enterprise correspondent Audra D.S. Burch. I got lost all weekend in these 250+ photos, starting with Gerrits’ stunner. Shooting from a low vantage point, Gerrits saw through the crowds to isolate the distinguished profile of a lone masked mourner leaning into the heavenly backdrop of a church steeple disappearing into the clouds. She wisely gave the photo room to breathe, conveying a moment that was solemn, majestic and otherworldly.
Among the many powerful images from the continuing Black Lives Matter protests, freelance photographer Alyssa Schukar captured a solemn moment of solidarity June 2 at a makeshift Minneapolis memorial where George Floyd was taken into police custody. The past week brought one striking photo after another – from worldwide street demonstrations and the destruction of Confederate statues to President Trump’s Bible-toting, church-side photo op and the bright yellow Black Lives Matter street mural painted by a defiant DC mayor. Despite becoming targets of violence as they were shot by rubber bullets, pepper sprayed, arrested and at times criticized for showing demonstrators’ faces, photojournalists documented a remarkable week. Shooting for the New York Times, Schukar framed her photograph with a fist raised in the foreground, a gesture repeated in the shadows of fists through the crowd, rising to a rooftop series of clenched hands. Set against a moody sky, the historic symbol of triumph and resistance represented the momentum of a movement.
The Sunday Still from Patrick Farrell
May 31st, 2020
The World Turned Upside Down—Again
In three Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs seared into our collective memory, the American flag has been an expression of valor, a weapon, and a jolting statement about the American dream-turned-nightmare. On May 28, when Associated Press photographer Julio Cortez captured a lone protestor’s silhouette against the flames of a burning liquor store in Minneapolis, the upside-down flag became the latest symbol of racial injustice and outrage as people poured into the streets to protest another black man’s death in white police custody. At a minute before midnight, on the third day of protests over the death of George Floyd, Cortez caught up with the protestor passing by the fire, its flames glowing through the fabric of the flag. In that split second, Cortez snapped an image that tells a country’s history, just like Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 picture of six U.S. Marines raising the flag in Iwo Jima, Stanley Forman’s “Soiling of Old Glory” of a white teenager assaulting a black lawyer in Boston in 1977, and Robert Cohen’s photo of Ferguson protestor Edward Crawford wearing a stars-and-stripes T-shirt while throwing a tear gas canister back at police in Missouri six years ago, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death by a white police officer. Cortez’s quick news judgment on a tense, chaotic street went viral. Said AP Director of Photography David Ake: “One foot in either direction and the image would lose that backlight and lose the impact.”
Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he worked from 1987 to 2019. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.