Photographer Brandon English spent endless hours covering the demonstrations that took place in Atlanta to protest the recent shooting deaths of black males by police officers, including the highly publicized and videotaped killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota last week. Wherever and whenever protesters gathered, people could see English's tall, lanky silhouette near the front of the action with cameras wrapped around him. The former CL
intern greatly contributed to CL’s coverage
of the protests, including the instantly classic image we chose for our Time and Place photograph in this week's print edition of Creative Loafing
. I talked with English about the image above, which was taken at 2:46 a.m. on Tuesday outside the Atlanta City Detention Center.
What is going on in this picture?
Several people sleep under the American flag outside of the Atlanta Detention Center while waiting for the release of protesters arrested during a protest/march in Buckhead on Monday July 11th.
Why do you like it?
I'm really into the way in which the repetition of the flags establishes a symbolic language throughout the photograph. The flag being a moniker of freedom/justice directly clashes with the physical location being that of a detention center. That sort of ideological conflict creates a subtext I can appreciate in a image.
Why do you think it makes a good Time and Place photo versus all the other photos you took of all the protests?
I believe the contrast of this one versus the other photographs of the weekend made it stand out. My other photographs are rife with tension, while this has the atmosphere of peace despite the location and context.
How many protests did you cover over the five days? How late do you work? How far did you walk? What was the most surprising thing you saw?
I covered five days of protests. Initially I was going to rest on Saturday, but saw a late-night post on Facebook from a protester seeking someone to bring water. So I hopped in the car, picked up some palettes of water and drove down from my mom's house in Cobb County. Most nights ran until the early morning. On Saturday night, I actually ended up editing photos at a frat house on Georgia Tech's campus until 5 a.m. Monday definitely ran the longest, as I stayed at the Atlanta Detention Center until the last protester was released at 6 a.m.
How far did I walk? A lot. More often than not I was running to reach the front of the march. At this time, I'm actually feeling pretty good. A few days ago I'd say the soreness was pretty well distributed, but the shoulders and knees definitely would have taken the cake. The unity that was able to be achieved certain nights despite such an amalgamation of people and ideals was easily the most surprising thing. I could list numerous things I witnessed from onlookers or police, but I don't know that I found those surprising.
Why did you cover the protests?
I had to. Not because I was assigned (I wasn't), but because of my process as an artist. I work in reality, so when the city I'm living in is having a moment such as this, I would be failing myself as an artist if I wasn't there. One part coping mechanism, one part my way of fighting for what I believe in.
More photographs from the Atlanta protests