There’s Just Us (2017)

This exhibition is on display at the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts from November 3, 2017 through February 18, 2018.

THERE’S JUST US

It was early August in Charlottesville, VA. I was there to photograph the Unite the Right protests, first at the University of Virginia on Friday and then at Emancipation Park on Saturday. I saw the torches and watched the march. I read the signs and heard the vitriol. I witnessed the violence and heard about Heather Heyer. I didn’t know what to think.

At the end of that long and unforgettable Saturday, I attended the memorial for the victims of the tragic events that occurred when James Alex Fields Jr. smashed his car into a crowd of pedestrians on 4th Street, killing Heather and injuring dozens. Community members took turns speaking. During that time, I heard one person say, “There’s no justice; there’s just us.” I began to think about that statement and what it could mean.

There’s Just Us

August 11, 2017  •  University of Virginia

I photographed the white supremacist evening tiki torch rally at the University of Virginia. I saw 300 white supremacists march from Nameless Field to the campus rotunda where a small band of 25 student counter-protesters surrounded the statue of Thomas Jefferson, arm-in-arm, representing diversity and inclusion. Those students could have said “there’s just us here tonight, so stay strong and be brave.”

August 12, 2017  •  Emancipation Park

I photographed the alt-right’s Unite the Right rally. I watched as protestors had to walk through a row of religious leaders that were side-by-side and chanting “love has already won.” Those religious leaders could have said “there’s just us here today, so stay strong and remind them of love and compassion.”

I saw the protests turn violent; when smoke bombs, tear gas, pepper spray, paint balloons, urine balloons, and water bottles were thrown into crowds of counter-protestors. I saw bats being swung and aerosol cans being turned into flame throwers. I heard a gunshot. I saw brave souls countering the vile, obscenity-laced expletives with signs, flowers, and symbols of peace. Those counter-protestors could have said “there’s just us here today, so we’re going to combat hate with peace.”

There’s Just Us represents the struggle I saw when communities fight hate and bigotry; of the collective voices that were brave enough to stand up against all odds. It reminds us that we are never alone in the struggle for diversity and inclusion. Together, we can remember those voices who were silenced all too soon and make this world a better place to live.

There’s Just Us.

Torch March
300 white supremacists march through the University of Virginia campus on their way to the statue of Thomas Jefferson. August 11, 2017.

Confronting Hate
Photographer Daniel Hosterman stands his ground as white supremacist Christopher Cantwell berates him for photographing the march. August 11, 2017.

Solidarity
Area religious leaders, arm-in-arm, chanted “love has already won” as white supremacists gathered at Emancipation Park. August 12, 2017.

Saluting Hate
Members of the Ku-Klux-Klan give the traditional four finger salute to the photographer. August 12, 2017.

Peace
Counter-protestors walk among the militia that came out that day to, as one New Jersey member put it, “protect the Constitution.” August 12, 2017.

X
White supremacist protestors came to Emancipation Park wearing protective anti-riot helmets and carrying riot shields, bats, and other weapons. August 12, 2017.

Unity
The Antifa group Workers World Party arrive at Emancipation park to “smash” Nazis and white supremacists. August 12, 2017.

Struggle
As tensions rise, objects like water bottles are thrown back and forth between protestors and counter-protestors. August 12, 2017.

Tolerance
As protestors are forced to leave Emancipation Park, they walk by a woman whose sign reads “Tolerance Does Not Mean Tolerating Intolerance.” August 12, 2017.

Chaos
Smoke bombs go off and crowds disperse. August 12, 2017.