I was invited to exhibit my photography and also document parts of Amnesty International USA’s 2014 Human Rights Conference / Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Chicago two weeks ago. I usually photograph various components of these meetings each year, both nationally and regionally, which takes me all over the country – most recently to Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and now Chicago. In these travels and events, I have the opportunity to interact with incredible human rights advocates and also with those affected by their rights having been violated – not only abroad, but here in the United States.
Conference photography in hotel ballrooms really can’t capture the intensity of such violations, but I do aim to capture the spirit of the movement, and of the community built around coming together to make the world a safer, more just place.
Some highlighted photos are included below, which include a concert at the House of Blues by the Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, and a march and rally against Chicago police torture. All very moving in their own unique ways.
This week’s blog post features photos from this past Friday’s annual “Get on the Bus” gathering in New York City. Hundreds of Amnesty International members and activists got on buses and trains all throughout the northeast, from Maine to New Jersey, to gather in Manhattan for a day of human rights action and education. I photograph “Get on the Bus” each year, having been a part of this incredible event since 2000. Look forward to Spring 2015, as it will be the 20th year!
I was recently in Wilmington, Delaware to document a weekend’s worth of work by Witness to Innocence and the Delaware Repeal Project, to move the state closer to death penalty abolition. Witness to Innocence is an organization of death row exonerees who were freed from death rows around the United States because of their actual innocence. They were here to tell their stories to the public, the press, and to area churches, in hopes of making Delaware the 7th state in 7 years to end the practice of executions.
There were many powerful moments during the course of the weekend, but perhaps none tops when I witnessed a woman approach death row exoneree Ron Keine following his speaking briefly during a Sunday Mass, and said to him, “I supported the death penalty before, but after hearing your story, I no longer believe in it.” She then signed a postcard to be sent to her legislator. Even if that was the only example of a victory this weekend, then I’d say it was all well worth it, and a success.
At the same time as these efforts, the Delaware Theatre Company coincidentally was also performing the play, “The Exonerated.” Selections from my “Timeline of an Execution” series were on exhibit for the opening of the play, and will continue to be on exhibit through the end of this weekend (closing March 9).
Below are some highlights from the weekend.
|Maryland death row exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth (right) chats with Seth Penalver, Florida’s newest survivor from death row.|
|A church member greets Ron Keine while Ray Krone looks on, to thank the men for their message of triumph during the morning church service.|
|David Keaton, a death row exoneree, takes a moment during a legislative information session before a long day of public events.|
|Albert Burrell, death row exoneree from Louisiana.|
|Seth Penalver, death row exoneree from Florida.|
|Clarence Brandley, death row exoneree from Texas.|
|Shareef Cousin, death row exoneree from Louisiana.|
|Friday night at the Delaware Theater Company.|
|“Timeline of an Execution” exhibited at the Delaware Theater Company in conjunction with the play, “The Exonerated.”|
|The real exonerated come out on stage, backed by actors, at the finale of the theatrical production of “The Exonerated.”|
|Press conference with Witness to Innocence exonerees.|
|Anna Schuck (left) of Delaware Repeal, and Seth Penalver (center) talk to an attendee of a public event in Wilmington.|
|Death row exonerees are welcomed at a Sunday morning mass.|
|Florida death row exoneree Seth Penalver bows in prayer during a Sunday morning church service downtown.|
|Witness to Innocence’s executive director, David Love, at a morning church service.|
|Church choir members come out to greet the death row exonerees in attendance.|
|Delaware Repeal Project staff (two at far left) join Albert Burrell, Ron Keine, and Ray Krone (all death row exonerees), at a church fair following a Sunday morning service, to gather signatures and contact info for the abolition efforts.|
|Albert Burrell, exoneree from Louisiana, chats with a woman during a church fair.|
|Church members sign postcards to be sent to legislators supporting repeal.|
|Clarence Brandley, death row exoneree from Texas, speaks after church to a small group of interested members, while Harold Wilson (right) awaits his turn to tell his own story.|
Saturday, September 21, 2013, marks the second anniversary of the execution of Troy Davis by the State of Georgia. I was there in Jackson, GA to document the final days of action around his case, and the final moments of his life in the presence of Troy’s siblings and family members outside the prison that night. I recently wrote an essay detailing my experience photographing the events around his execution. You can read it here.
In honor of Troy’s life and the worldwide movement that tried to save an innocent person from execution, on this second anniversary I am releasing some previously unseen photos that I took in the 24 hours leading up to his death. There are over 100 photos below. Some of these images were posted on my website and on Facebook immediately after the execution, but many others have been sitting here on the computer for these last two years. There are many more I could share, as I took thousands, but these are ones that have the most meaning to me, personally.
Last year on the first anniversary, I was in London for a reception of my photographs at the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre (you can listen to my remarks here). This year, I am heading to New York City for Friday’s public launch of the just-released book about Troy Davis, which uses some of these photos. In New York City, I’ll be joining many of the Amnesty International leaders from the US and UK that were instrumental in building the movement for Troy Davis to reflect together along with members of Troy’s family.
While I could write volumes of caption information for each photo below, I will just leave the photos to speak for themselves without my words. That is very hard for me to do, but it is all I have the time and emotional energy for right now as I reflect on Troy Davis’s execution. You can find some caption information for select photos at my death penalty photo website, www.deathpenaltyphoto.org/galleries/troydavis/.
Since 2000, I have been working on a personal project of photographing celebrities (among other groups) holding a sign that reads “I Oppose the Death Penalty!” The project is an extension of my death penalty photo documentary that began in 1999, and continues to this day.
I have had the privelege of photographing (with the sign) Martin Sheen, Kurt Vonnegut, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Elvis Costello, Danny Glover, Ani Difranco, Michael Dukakis, Phil Donahue, David Strathairn, Howard Zinn, Michael Moore, Eve Ensler, Dar Williams, Dan Berrigan, Mike Farrell, Angela Davis and Arun Gandhi. (See the project’s website for a full list and the photos themselves.)
Most recently added to this list is the legendary Joan Baez (who not only performed at Woodstock, but performed at MLK’s March on Washington 50 years ago yesterday). This June I met Joan backstage in Western Massachusetts for the photo op, just before her show along with The Indigo Girls.
Here is the photo:
I didn’t photograph the Indigo Girls at this time, because I had already taken their photo with the sign back in 2002. Here is that one:
The show was amazing, by the way (photos below of that). The Indigo Girls opened for Joan, and then came out to join Joan for a double encore.
I had seen Joan perform three years earlier at Amnesty International’s celebratory 50th anniversary conference in San Francisco.
Steve Earle (above, left) joined Joan on the stage at this performance. Then this summer, included in Joan’s set, was at least one Steve Earle cover, so I’ll throw in some photos I took of Steve with the death penalty sign. The first is from 2001, and the second (because I wanted a higher quality version) from 2009.
I hope you’ll check out the other photos in this series at the project’s website and send any ideas or leads you may have to help the project reach even more celebrities and audiences.
I mentioned in a few blog posts ago that I’ve had the privilege of photographing some sentimental moments with a few growing families recently. The is one of those moments.
I photographed Becca and Cori’s Western Massachusetts wedding in 2009, and have since become friends with them since they live near me, and since we both now have young children.
Becca is the birth mother of the super-adorable twins Leah (in yellow dress) and Abby (in pigtails). Because they have a same-sex marriage, her partner Cori had to file court papers to legally become the parent to Leah and Abby, even though she has, for all intents and purposes, been their parent since birth.
One July 12, I joined Becca, Cori, Abby and Leah and their families at the Court House in Hudson, New York when I judged signed the papers to make Cori’s adoption legal. It was a wonderful, touching moment where it all came together.
With my background of documenting death penalty issues, and having sat in the courtroom many, many times, it was refreshing to see something good and beautiful come out of a court appearance. Even the judge seemed elated to be involved in something so positive – enough to allow me free range in the courtroom with my camera and enough to allow a full family portrait behind the bench! A truly rare moment in any courthouse across this country.
Congratulations to Cori and Becca for staying with the long, arduous system to see this finally happen!
|Waiting for the Judge to arrive.|
|The Judge arrives and greets Cori and Becca.|
|The Judge greets the family before the hearing begins.|
|The hearing begins, with everyone gathered around the table.|
|Abby and Leah playing under the chairs and table during the hearing.|
|The Judge reviewing the paperwork|
|Cori with Leah.|
|The attorney explains to Becca the legal documents and shows the Judge’s signature to make it official.|
|Family and friends applaud.|
|Tears are shed – both by Becca (at left) but also Abby (held by Cori).|
|The first family moment.|
|Cori with Leah.|
|Family photo on the bench with the Judge.|
|Whole group photo on the Judge’s bench.|
|Family portrait outside the Hudson Courthouse.|
|Celebration dinner after the hearing.|
Every year I photograph the annual “Get on the Bus” day of human rights action and education in New York City for Amnesty International USA. This year’s event was April 27, but I am just now getting around to posting some shots on the blog. I wanted to get these up before the wedding season comes full speed ahead (starting this weekend!).
You can find more of this year’s Get on the Bus photos on this Facebook photo gallery.
The first image here is a screenshot of the Amnesty International USA website, where they have used a photo in the design of a fundraising appeal this week.
Protest on, good people…