‘The Still Image Has Changed The World Before. I Hope It Does Again’ – One Photographer’s Powerful Images From The Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park

Misan Harriman, who also founded publishing platform What We Seee, says he felt obligated to brave the crowds to capture the historic moment.

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by Anna Silverman |

'I didn’t think I’d be shooting in crowded environments this year, but the reality is the Black Lives Matter cause is overwhelmingly important. I am a black man. If I lived in America, I would leave my wife and children to do what I do and know I may never return. That is unacceptable, so I feel obligated to do my work and capture this moment so we can remind ourselves how good we can be when we are unified.

READ MORE: Why Posting A Black Square On Instagram Isn't Enough

I never thought people would come out and join crowds like this because of Covid, but no one saw this cause exploding and becoming the movement it deserves to be. It's massively important to people from all backgrounds and they came to show solidarity while keeping as safe a distance as they could do. The bottom line is, they had to be there. I have a 135 millimetre lens and shoot people from quite far away. It's impossible to adhere to all the social distancing rules but it's a moment in history where, as a photographer, I had to document it.

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Misan Harriman, photographer and founder of publishing platform What We Seee. ©Misan Harriman

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The still image has changed the world many times before. I'm not claiming any of my own images have necessarily, but it is the type of art form you can’t defend yourself against. It seeps into your soul and, for me, that is my weapon. If I want to reach people, I'll take the pictures and let the image do the work. Many images have changed the path of decisions made by governments; they are in history books, reminding us of our gravest mistakes and of the finest parts of the human story. I hope the images I've taken this week remind us of London and the United Kingdom coming out in solidarity for the people in America and the men and women of colour all over the world as their birth right.

A Series of Misan Harriman's images from the Black Lives Matter protest In Hyde Park on 3 June.

Gallery

London's Black Lives Matter Protests, As Captured By Misan Harriman, Photographer And Founder Of What We Seee.

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CREDIT: Misan Harriman

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CREDIT: Misan Harriman

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CREDIT: Misan Harriman

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CREDIT: Misan Harriman

Many of us can't change what's happening inAmericadirectly, but we can make sure we’re aware of the history of racism and call it out; we can educate ourselves to make sure we are not victims of ignorance that can lead to misunderstanding another person's culture. Most importantly, we can educate the younger people in our families, so they are equipped to understand the complexities of thestructures of systematic racism, from the earliest days of one’s schooling, to how the criminal justice system works for one person and fails another. There's no denying that there is a lot for us all to take in and learn, but the good thing is people have decided to try.

Covering these protests, I’ve felt a mixture of feelings: moments of deep reflection; I was reminded of open wounds I sometimes forget are there. I also felt absolute pride and hope in seeing so many people with empathy in their hearts. But my job is not to get too involved in those feelings and to keep shooting. I will reflect on this later. Right now, in this moment, I need to make sure I have this time capsule for us all to be aware of, because if history has taught us anything, we’re sometimes prone to memory loss.

There's a quote I posted on my Instagram a few days ago which says: “speak the truth, even if your voice shakes”. Photos almost do that for you. I'm snapping people and it’s really showing the truth of people in moments where we're a little bit unsure, but we know we have to try and understand. Pictures are an honest observation of the human condition. If I can make people feel something and switch their emotional engine on by seeing these pictures, whether it's sadness, happiness or hope, then that's the beginning of a new journey for them. I hope that journey leads them to love in their hearts and understanding. If looking at one of my images sets you on that journey then I’ll be a very happy man.

Right now, in this moment, I need to make sure I have this time capsule for us all to be aware of, because if history has taught us anything, we’re sometimes prone to memory loss.

I also hope these images show that we were united in an awful 2020. We've all been through the mill, but we stood together to fight racism and I hope these images play a small part in getting that messages across. Now, I want to reach out to my friends and family and make sure they are okay as we continue to navigate the pandemic alongside this incredible Black Lives Matter movement.'

www.whatweseee.com

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