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For Some Protest Photographers, There’s No Such Thing as Neutral

America is a nation born of protest. From the day rebels dumped British tea into Boston Harbor up until the Black Lives Matter rallies happening this month around the country, civil disobedience has shaped American identity. And when we look back on similar turning points in our history — the Suffrage and Civil Rights movements, the Vietnam War protests, the Stonewall Riots, and Occupy Wall Street — we see what remains of them: photographs.

Images of protest have, since the early 20th century, shaped our understanding of our nation’s history more than perhaps any other medium. We see Suffragettes picketing in front of the White House and the haunting images of nonviolent Black protesters in Birmingham in 1963, attacked by dogs and hosed down with firehoses. We see a Kent State University student screaming over the body of her murdered classmate, and ACT UP AIDS activists lying on Wall Street with tombstone shaped signs. And while we often reference, remember — and in the era of widespread social media— re-share these iconic photographs of protest, we rarely stop to consider the people who made them.

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