The other day I looked up "Occupy Wall Street" on Wikipedia after I kept on hearing about it and was surprised to read the protestors, or "99 percenters" as they call themselves are "mainly protesting against social and economic inequality, corporate greed, and the influence of corporate money and lobbyists on government." I had a hard time wrapping my head around this one sentence. How could the protesters not realize that social and economic inequality is simply a part of life, and history shows that it has always been that way? To me they may as well have been protesting against the laws of physics -- something that simply can not be, or never will be. They are protesting against the influence of "lobbyist" on the government -- but couldn't the protesters technically be considered lobbyist themselves?
I decided after a couple of days that I just had to go and check out the Occupy Atlanta location at Woodruff Park with my camera. I went with the idea of doing portraits of some of the protesters and asking them one simple question, this being: "What is your purpose or hope by being here?" I truly wanted to get a better understanding of who they were, and why they were participating in the event. I took the following photos Friday afternoon in the span of of about two-and-a-half hours. They are all uncropped -- and you are seeing them in the order I took them. The captions below each one is from the notes I took while talking to that particular individual, and their statements/comments to me have not been altered to fit my particular views at all.
Click on each image to see a larger version of it.
|At least I know that somebody out there loves me.|
|He's a 99 Percenter too.|
|This is James. When I asked him what his hope or purpose behind being there was he said, "I'm here just because I can be." He had nothing to add to that. James is 23 and just hobos across the country.|
|This is Oppie. When I asked what his hope or purpose behind being there was he told me that he was there to fight for the homeless and education rights. He was just a little bit drunk I think, so I pressed no further with my questions.|
|Some guy named Daniel Wise needs a job apparently. I guess this might be his cover letter and resume?|
|So I'm trying to wrap my head around this one. It doesn't quite make sense, or add up to me for a few reasons.|
|Some of the people were apparently mad about life in general.|
|Just somebody else telling their story...|
|The protesters marched down Peachtree Street, protesting against Emory shutting down its homeless shelter.|
|They were chanting. Beating on the bottoms of buckets. Just making a racket anyway they could in general. I just stood in front of them and let them march all around me, photographing them as they passed by.|
|I was not aware that there was "Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialist of Atlanta" here in town -- or that Emory hated poor black and white homeless men.|
|James has issues with smokers according to his sign.|
|This lady was something else. Her name is Bernadette Glenda Allen. She handed out the flyer that I've posted below and had the crowd repeating everything back to her as she read it out loud over her loudspeaker.|
|And this is the back of the flyer that she was reading out loud over her loudspeaker that a whole crowd of people was repeating back to her with real conviction. I was waiting for her to start passing out Kool-Aid to everybody, but she never did.|
|Maybe they weren't buying it since they were not acting like robots and repeating everything Ms. Allen had to say.|
|Most everybody else around her was all about it though.|
|I think these two might have found it as amusing as I did.|
|Some of the downtown skyline as seen from Woodruff Park as it was getting dark.|
|I saw lots of MacBooks out there. So I guess Apple is one of the corporations that the protesters are okay with.|
|Education is a right, not an investment -- according to this sign and some of the protesters like The Georgia Students For Higher Education. See the flyer below:|
|Just another one of the flyers that was being passed around.|
So I can't begin to explain how glad I am that I went down there to see for myself what the Occupy Wall Street protest was all about rather than just depending on the news for information on it. I was disappointed with a lot that I saw. It was not organized at all. There was a lot of drinking. I did smell people smoking weed. I even caught, or saw, one homeless guy with his hand down the front of another homeless guys pants in broad daylight. They were laid down in the park grass not even twenty feet from Peachtree Street (which is the main strip through Atlanta for those of you not from here). Some of the people were in bad need of a shower. Some of the protesters had valid concerns though -- and those were the ones that made my time down there worth it to me.
Well, I guess when I think about it, everybody I spoke to down there made it worth it to me. I'm a big believer that we all should be willing to open our minds to those that are different than us. Open your mind to those that are from different walks of life that have different viewpoints than you do. You don't have to agree with them -- but you can try and understand them better. That is what I was doing by being down there.
I love stepping out of my comfort zone -- going up to strangers, doing a portrait of them, and then talking to them and finding out who they are. Where do they come from? How did they get where they are? What do they believe in? It makes me realize just how much I love photography and people in general. People and their intricacies (or lack of intricacy in some cases) fascinate me.
This has been my best and most honest interpretation of The Occupy Wall Street movement / protest based on what I saw in the short amount of time I was there on Friday evening. I tried to be very diverse in the people I chose to go and speak with and photograph -- not just looking to speak with those that seemed to be the most oblivious. I also have not picked certain events to share and left others out to fit my own personal viewpoints. I simply documented what was going on while I was there.
I can't explain it, but I could not get my mind to stop racing after I left the other night. I may not agree with the movement or what they were fighting for in general, but I swear, the other night I felt better than I recall feeling in months (years maybe) when I got home. Jason Brown, thank you for encouraging me to go down there and do this.