On the days that news breaks of yet another shooting with fallen students + teachers + loved ones, my mind quickly drifts to ‘Will this ever happen at MY kids’ school?’ I imagine what that looks like; what that feels like as a parent.
I don’t want to think about it, but my mind goes there anyway.
Death. Bodies. Blood.
My dead kid.
All of it plays out in my “what if?” imagination.
It feels almost small considering our country’s students + school staff do this thought dance DAILY as they step out their front door.
On Saturday, March 24, 2018, documentary photographers within our community participated in and photographed the 2018 March for Our Lives.
Through the commendable youth who organized + marched on Saturday and the photographers who documented their stories, I hope this short collection of pictures + stories is a reminder that we’re in this together.
Our dialogue with each other can change the world.
If, by chance, you’re reading this as student who practiced your voice last weekend, I hope you see in the stories below how much you’ve taught us adults through your actions.
We previously published several photographers who marched + photographed the Women’s March in 2017. In the same spirit, we reached out to a handful of photographers to submit their photos and tell their side of the story through a short series of questions:
- What most motivated you to go out and shoot this event?
- What did being at the march feel like (what was the atmosphere like, how did it feel emotionally)? And going further, how did photographing the event feel for you?
- How did you choose what pictures to make? Was there an underlying story you were trying to tell through your pictures?
- What has this experience taught you?
- What was happening in the photo(s) you submitted? What was on your mind as you created this one?
So, here’s their stories…
I’ve been deeply inspired by the activism of the students in the wake of the Parkland tragedy. They’ve refused to be gaslighted, they’ve spoken their truth, and they’ve made a point of using their privilege to bring voices of students from less advantaged communities to the spotlight.
I was excited to stand with them, show my support, and capture the energy + intent of the protest.
The march was deeply moving to me. Each time we turned a corner we saw another flank of people join up with us, our numbers growing. Multi-generational groups were all around me.
The defiance and optimism in the air repeatedly brought me to tears.
The creativity of the signs was truly a joy to behold. I felt proud of my city and my country. We’ve awoken a sleeping giant in our children.
I was really most interested in capturing the story of teenagers + young adults at the march: their diversity, their passion and anger, but their bright joyous smiles and creative minds too.
I’ve always known the importance of being a leader, but learning to follow, when someone else has stepped up so beautifully, that’s been a revelation.
I look forward to teaching my son, who is too young for me to talk to in-depth about all of this right now, about Emma Gonzalez (because I’m quite sure their will be even more of a story to tell).
I’ll proudly follow these kids as they take back our democracy, and I’ll have my camera with me to document.
Right now we’re living in Spokane, Washington and our march occurred in downtown Spokane. While historically conservative, the inertia has been towards a more progressive culture. I really wanted to document this for a few reasons.
The subject matter is important to me – I strongly believe in their message and as a parent, I believe in making schools safe.
I remember when drills were fire drills and earthquake drills. And, I remember thinking how they must occur so often if we have to do drills for those events so frequently. It’s unfair to these kids that they have to believe school shootings are a part of life.
They shouldn’t be. Education should be their main priority. We shouldn’t put the onus on them to keep themselves safe. If we really believe in education, this is the first step.
I also think this is a historical movement and I want to help it any way I can. Supporting it as a fellow protester, as well as a photographer, is just a part of what I can do.
When I arrived, the atmosphere was noticeably different than the Women’s March/Persistence March earlier this year. This march felt incredibly energized. There were more families and young kids out, as well as the expected high schoolers. It felt for more diverse in that respect.
Voter registration volunteers took information from future voters, setting the tone of uprising and revolt against the lack of leadership and the politically corruption by the NRA. It was really energizing for me, instilling a sense of hope I haven’t felt since last year’s initial Women’s March. I have a lot of hope invested in our youth. Them being forced to grow up so quickly, in this way, is incredibly unfair to them, but I’m incredibly impressed with how they’re taking the reins.
As the march organizers announced the beginning of the march, they called for students and kids to lead the march. I felt like that was such a cornerstone of this movement and I really wanted to document their lead. So many of the images are of the local students leading the march, shouting:
“Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go!”
as they progressed through the streets of downtown Spokane.
I wanted my viewers to understand the sense of energy, courage, and resistance in this group of kids.
I live in Tampa Bay, but I was in San Francisco for the March. I have two kids. My oldest one is 4 years old and I think it’s important to introduce our kids to many forms of participation in society. The importance of caring about issues that affects us every day. In particular, this is affecting her TODAY, not tomorrow, not when she’s able to vote.
I love how diverse and intergenerational it was. There were people of all sorts of backgrounds. I also loved how incredibly engaged everyone was, listening the speeches during the rally and chanting in the streets afterwards.
I felt very comfortable photographing everyone. There was a peaceful, amicable environment throughout and people give photographers plenty of access, which was great.
For me, it was very important to photograph the teens. A society, in which, young adults aren’t willing to shape their own future is a death society. I felt that, up until now, young adults weren’t protesting enough in the streets, for problems in our society that they’ll inherit if nothing changes.
This one in particularly aftects them on a daily basis. I wanted to make sure that, even though there was plenty of adults of all ages, the photos reflected that THEY in particular were the ones taking the streets this time. As a generation growing up with computers and social media, maybe this was the very first experience taking the streets for many of them.
I feel that, by taking the streets on Saturday, they realize how galvanizing are their voices. There were about 800,000 people in Washington DC!! That’s so powerful!
With the exception of the picture of the older lady, all the pictures were taken during the rally at the Civic Center in San Francisco. I loved seeing how incredibly engaged everyone was with the speeches. They were powerful and so moving.
The square in front of the Civic Center has two playground with two climbing structrures. A lot of families ended up attending the rally there to allow the youngest ones to play around. A group of older kids and teens, climbed to the top of the structure and stayed there to listen the speeches. I saw a wonderful symbol on that. Here they were: high above everyone in those tall structures, listening to the speeches while holding meesages in their signs.
I live in Stratham, NH and participated in the march in Portsmouth, NH. Every weekday, I send everyone in my family off to FOUR different schools: elementary, middle, and high school for my three kids, and my husband teaches at a middle school in another district.
My family walks out our front door to school—not war, yet the worry and fear of them not returning home is just as real.
I refuse to accept that as our “new normal.”
And, so I marched.
I marched for the hundreds of innocent children who have lost their lives in school shootings, and I won’t stop marching, because of mine. Ever.
I tried to document it, because I know no other way. I document life— the good, the bad, and everything in between, and because of that my camera has become an extension of me. This is history in the making, and it’s been the most heartbreakingly, beautiful experience to witness the kids take the lead.
It’s also mortifying.
And so I marched.
My favorite sign read: I MARCH FOR WITH THE GENERATION THAT WILL SAVE US. That was the sign that pushed my tears right over the edge. I’m so proud of the grit AND grace of this generation. At the same time I’m embarrassed that we’ve somehow let it get this far.
They deserve more.
And so I marched.
Soon after we arrived, I found myself having an internal struggle; I was having a hard time balancing my roles. I was trying to be an active participant in a movement I felt so strongly about, all while documenting what I was witnessing in a way that would effectively show what it felt like to be there.
I kept hearing Kirsten Lewis’s voice in my head telling me I had to make a choice about which role I was going to take. Was I there to participate or to document?
I wanted to do both, but my heart was pulling me forward in one very clear direction.
And so I marched.
I’m becoming active in our local Moms Demand Action chapter. As a mom of 4 kids, I don’t always feel like I have a lot of extra time to give away through volunteer work, but when I do, I want to make sure that it’s through my photography. For this reason, I reached out to the group about a month ago and offered my photography services for whatever might be helpful to them.
Not long after, I was asked to photograph this march on their behalf.
I wonder if I would have gone if I hadn’t committed myself to doing this work for Moms Demand Action.
It was a cold and rainy day here in Louisville. I watched the weather report the day before and our meteorologist literally said, “I recommend any of your plans tomorrow to be indoors, because it’s going to be miserable all day long.”
I carefully created a cheap makeshift rain-proof camera bag and packed supplies for a backup. I wondered how many people would even show up in our town on such a cold, windy, rainy day. I parked at the end point of the march and still had no real idea of how many people might be there.
Upon rounding the block where the March was starting, my eyes widened. I know Louisville is a liberal city, as much as it can be, but after all we’re in KENTUCKY.
This was no small crowd, this was no mediocre crowd. This was a HUGE turnout for Louisville.
Banners were held up at the front of the crowd like starting gates, just waiting to be pushed through. Chants were loud and energetic. The mood was emphatically passionate and electric.
I knew that for this event the adults and usual organizations were heeding way to the students and letting them take the reigns. But even so, when the students holding those front banners began chanting:
“STUDENTS IN FRONT, ADULTS IN THE BACK! STUDENTS IN FRONT, ADULTS IN THE BACK!”
everything about my experience shifted.
I was no longer just clicking my way through an energetic event advocating for tougher gun legislation. This story was about the children.
This was an interesting revelation for me, because I became a mom at a young age, possibly as young as some of these organizers. My parenthood for a long time was meshed with my own youth. I relished in that youthful. I drew energy from it. In this moment though, I felt a flip.
Look at these beautiful students, children, youth…. Look at what they’re doing! See them!
They’re now the youth and I felt drawn to them, because I could see myself in them yet they’re so much more than I ever could have been at that age. Tromping through the streets, shouting empowering messages, taking no cues from adults, and leading the pack.
This is today’s youth.
To see their power as I raced along beside them was invigorating. My photographic journey and story became about their journey. When the march ended with a rally and these students began to speak, I was overcome with emotion completely.
It rained on the crowd and umbrellas emerged, these students spoke with poise, with passion, with conviction, and with facts. I watched them cheer each other loudly and glow with energy as their hair and faces became wet and their hands cold. I watched this crowd full of peers and adults watch and LISTEN.
This crowd truly listened.
Once I realized the story was about the children, that’s what my photographer eyes and heart searched for. I wanted my story to be about their empowerment, both realized by themselves and by the greater public, and about the sheer volume of support that was strong enough to gather on such an inclement day.
This experience has taught me to keep my eyes and heart open and not to be too rigid in predetermining a story. It’s better to let the story unfold in the way that best resonates with me. This is a lesson I learn over and over again, in photography and in life.
I traveled 3 hours to March for Our Lives in Boston. After attending and documenting the Women’s March in Washington, DC in 2017, I wanted to use my photography to make a difference in areas that meant the most to me. Over the past year or so, I’ve been documenting a variety of marches and rallies, most in my own community. This one was particularly meaningful and necessary for me, since I have three children including a 15 year-old son in high school.
We live in fear that a shooting could happen in our rural city any day. We adults across this country have let our kids down. Documenting the courage of these young leaders will help support and advance their work.
The feel of the march was somewhat different from the rally that followed, where 100,000 people gathered on the Common. The march, estimated at 50,000 felt positive and upbeat; people were happy to be with each other and there was a lot of energy from the students and young children.
For the first 90 minutes of the march, I stayed on the sidelines just watching and documenting the wash of people. There was a parade-like atmosphere with music, chanting and even someone dancing on stilts. For the next 90 minutes, we let ourselves get swept along with the boisterous crowd of people of all ages.
The rally itself was more somber. The weather had turned cold and heavily overcast, and there was deep emotion and sorrow in the crowd when the survivors from Parkland, FL spoke. Both events were powerful.
The overwhelming sense I had was one of awe and pride in the achievement of these student organizers.
Throughout the day, I felt overcome with emotion that teenagers, some who had experienced unthinkable trauma, had organized a nationwide event that is going to go down in history as being one of the largest, if not the largest, ever.
Photographing the event felt necessary.
In this era of controversy over “facts” vs “fake news”, it’s important to me to document the facts and share them with the world, especially in a history-making moment such as this one.
I wanted to show that this event was student-led. The kids were in charge with support from adults of all ages. I also wanted to capture the themes conveyed in the signs carried by marchers.
I’ve now photographed many rallies and marches, and at this particular event, I was blown away by the kids and the power of their leadership, and their focus on making meaningful change in the world.
I wanted my photographs to show the power of the people assembled, primarily the children leading it, and the scale of the event. I wanted the photos to show what motivated 100,000 people to rally together in this city, so it was important to get close-ups of the signs and powerful messages being communicated.
It was a long day, but I’m so glad that with the company of a good friend we made the trek to Boston, to support the kids, the make change, to see and documented history being made.
Jamie Davis Smith
I went to the March for Our Lives first and foremost as a participant in my home state of Washington DC. I strongly feel that we need stricter gun control in the US for many reasons and one of the most important reasons is that children should feel safe at schools and not fear for their lives.
I wanted to document the huge outpouring of support for such common-sense measures and document this historic event organized by students.
There were wall-to-wall people at the event. Many times, I held back tears reading the signs students were holding asking, “Am I next?” I also felt hope that, despite the bloodshed, hundreds of thousands of people were flooding the streets of DC to ensure their message was heard. Moreover, voter registration efforts were very prominent at the March, since we can all make ourselves heard a second time at the polls.
I also had admiration for all of the parents not shying away from tough conversations and helping their children realize what they can do to bring about positive change.
Since I was with my young children and we were relatively stationary during the rally, I didn’t have the opportunity for a lot of variety. However, I did want to focus on the historic student involvement in this rally and the large number of very young children who were there largely, because they had all experienced active shooter drills in schools and could not be shielded from this very scary topic as a result.
I was inspired to see their empowerment through activism and wanted to capture how this is far from a hopeless situation with those with the most to lose involved and seeking real change.
This experience has taught me that it’s difficult to be both an active participant, watch children, and document a large rally, but I’m glad I did what I could. Of course, I made several photos of my own children and I’m glad they will have those.
Did you photograph the 2018 March for Our Lives?
Drop your link below and tell us about your experience as a photographer and human!