Four photographers in New York and LA share their experiences and photos from the Black Lives Matter protests.

The protests and civil unrest resulting from George Floyd’s death started on May 26 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since then, protests, marches, and demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have continued in small towns and large cities across the country and across the world. They have sparked national and international conversations about systemic racism and racial inequality, and they have galvanized changes in government, business, and the media.

We spoke to four photographers who contribute to Shutterstock about their experience documenting these historic protests. They share their point of view below, along with the images they want the world to see.


Steven Eloiseau

Steven has been documenting the protests in New York City. He uses a Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon AE1 film camera.

On documenting history:

“We are currently living in history and it’s difficult to even ignore what’s going on outside. For the first time in a while, many are speaking out, voices are being heard, bills are being passed, demands are being met and it’s truly amazing. But we still have a lot of work to do and I am glad that people are witnessing the effect a protest can have.”

Image by Steven Eloiseau.

On being a Black photographer at the protests:

“There are a lot of emotions that run through me while documenting these protests. I don’t look at myself as a photographer during the protests because I too am fighting. I am walking, chanting, and crying with everyone else.” 

Image by Steven Eloiseau.

“Knowing what we are fighting for and living through the unforgettable personal experiences of being a Black man in America only fuels me to want to create more. There are stories that need to be told for the generations to come and I have the advantage to help tell them from my point of view.”

On finding moments to capture at the protests:

“When taking photographs at a protest, it’s easy to capture great shots of everyone doing the same thing in unison. I tend to look for the protesters that are doing something different than everyone else or the protester that seems more emotionally attached to what is going on. With the pandemic still happening and face coverings with the masks, I am reading those emotions through their eyes.”

Image by Steven Eloiseau.

On using photography as a platform for social justice:

“Social justice has actually played a role in my life for a while now. Prior to becoming a full-time photographer, I was an educator for about 8 years and only worked in schools where the students looked like me and in neighborhoods that looked like mine growing up. Today I still use the same approach when it comes to my role as a photographer. I use my platform to showcase black art and talent, but to ultimately show that we can be in the space as everyone else.”

Image by Steven Eloiseau.

Giles Harrison

Giles has been documenting the protests in Los Angeles. He uses a Nikon D610, Nikon 80-400mm lens, Nikon 28-300mm, Sigma 300-800mm and Nikon SB 910 Flash.

On documenting history:

“It is an indescribable feeling to be documenting in this way. From a journalistic perspective there is a certain amount of dispassionate objectivity that one has to bring when doing the job and that certainly plays into how I feel, but there is a certain degree of respect for the moments you are capturing and the stories that you are aiming to tell.” 

Image by Giles Harrison, courtesy of artist.

“First and foremost, being a photographer is about capturing a fleeting moment that defines the subject that you are shooting.These protests have been brimming with these moments the likes of which we may never see again. In this day and age almost everyone has a device for taking photos but very few of those people have the ability to capture the true essence of a moment and that’s what I feel that [photographers] are doing at the moment.”

On the critical role of photography and visuals in the movement:

“Being a news photographer is about telling the truth and people need to see in graphic detail the truth of the world we live in and the subjects that we are covering. The catalyst for these recent protests in our history was the senseless death of George Floyd and the only reason the world is aware of exactly what happened to him is because Darnella Frazier caught his arrest and treatment at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department with her cellphone camera. Imagine what would have happened had she not captured it? Nothing, that’s what – we wouldn’t be protesting begging for the system to change.”

Image by Giles Harrison, courtesy of artist.

 On finding moments to capture at the protests:

“[I try] to capture moments of true emotional and dramatic connection. Anything that helps people appreciate the magnitude and the serious nature of the moment in history that we are living through.”

Image by Giles Harrison, courtesy of artist.

On covering future protests:

“This will just force me to strive for capturing the moment rather than just trying to get any photo. Protests need to be covered no matter what the movement so that people can look and learn about the causes that other people are feeling so passionate about. I will certainly be covering more protests as this is an unprecedented moment in modern history.”

Image by Giles Harrison, courtesy of artist.

Chelsea Lauren

Chelsea has been documenting the protests in Los Angeles with two Canon 1sXMarkII bodies, a 70-200 II 2.8 lens, 16-35 2.8 lens and a 24-70 II 2.8 lens.

On documenting history:

“It feels surreal, to be honest. It’s strange to actually realize that you are experiencing a turning point in history as it is happening. I feel that it is important for it to be documented in as authentic a way as is possible. I am hoping that these images live on forever and are seen by future generations in history texts. I am proud to play a tiny part documenting the tipping point that hopefully leads to a better future for people that have been systemically oppressed.”

Image by Chelsea Lauren.

On the importance of documenting the protests:

“It is so critical for people to see what is happening. The internet and social media is allowing the world to see so many others uprising and standing for what is right. People that may not have had access to this content in previous generations can now see that this is a true worldwide movement and feel like they too can do something. One man’s tragic murder has now and forever changed the world. The original video of George Floyd lit the fuse and then the subsequent photos and videos of these protests had a snowball effect. If this had not happened, the system would be able to continue to operate as it always has.”

Image by Chelsea Lauren.

On finding moments to capture at the protests:

“I try to be unbiased in my photography. I’ve photographed angry looking police, officers taking a knee, rage-filled protesters, peaceful protesters, rioters and looters as well as the aftermath – the whole spectrum. I want to tell the story as it happened, not only the parts that fit the mold I would like the world to see. The complete story is so important.”

Image by Chelsea Lauren.

“As a photographer, flare-ups and altercations always make for dynamic images. But also, images of a thousand people peacefully sitting in an intersection speak the world. If any faces grab me, I photograph them. Generally anything that makes me look at it twice – there really is no secret formula. I do find fascinating the combination of COVID with the protesting – seeing people with medical masks and signs – it has never been seen before. It truly shows the state of the world as it is today.”

On documenting the protests in the midst of a pandemic:

“Social justice has a massive part in why I am covering the protests. Besides being historically essential to have documented, this is a cause that shapes the very foundation of society and to the world as we know it. Before George Floyd was murdered, I had not left my home due to Coronavirus. I had my groceries delivered – and Lysoled everything before it came in. But, when this happened, I told myself, “If I get sick, I get sick. This is too important to just sit idly by when the opportunity has presented itself for the core values of the world we live in to finally be reformed.” I’m still very vigilant about COVID; I wear my mask and take as many precautions as I can when I am out at the protests, and when I am not – I am still completely isolated. I’m getting tested weekly to make sure I don’t infect anyone inadvertently.”

Image by Chelsea Lauren.

Stephen Lovekin

Stephen has been documenting the protests in New York City using mainly Nikon gear.

On documenting history:

“It feels amazing to watch everything unfold the way it has been. I’ve been taking pictures for over twenty five years and it’s a real rarity when you realize that history is being made and that things are changing so dramatically right before your eyes. It’s inspiring.”

Image by Stephen Lovekin, courtesy of artist.

On the importance of photographing the protests:

“Any time there is social unrest or upheaval it is crucial to document it, but to also try your best to understand it. So, in that sense I try to keep myself as informed as possible. And, in an open society it is imperative for people to have the ability to express their discontent with whatever injustices they have suffered. In this case it is with police brutality – matter of opinion, obviously. But, what I really think is important for people to see is the diversity and the passion in the protests. In that regard it really shows the need for change in the broader context. Photojournalism is a key component.”

Image by Stephen Lovekin, courtesy of artist.

One the role of empathy in photography:

“I guess my emotions always play a part in what I decide to cover and how I decide to cover it. I feel that if you feel strongly about what it is you’re covering – or maybe if you try to be more empathetic – then the pictures you take tend to be better than say that of the “detached observer.” To feel is to be human. Just my opinion.”

Image by Stephen Lovekin.

“When I’m out covering the protests I’m mainly looking for the images that best convey the spirit or the vibe of what’s going on around me. If it feels dramatic then I’m gonna go for something that can help illustrate that. Personally, I want something that packs a punch in some way. I also want it to be honest.”

On using truth in photography to achieve social justice:

“I have actually been involved in demonstrations – both as a photographer and as a citizen – for over twenty some odd years of my life at this point. To be honest, I would say that the need and/or desire for social justice pretty much animates most of what I do and how I look at the world. As a photographer/artist I look for moments of truth or honesty to make an image interesting. That’s what compels me. It’s what excites me. And, in the search for social justice, I think it‘s the quest for truth that will help get us there one day.”

Image by Stephen Lovekin.

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