Occupy Chicago - Global Protest Day October 2011

Documentary Project

The Idea

Living in Chicago, I was just getting serious about photography. I wasn’t however a stranger to protest demonstrations and on GLobal Protest Day, October 2011, my wife and I jumped on the El and made way for downtown.

Thankfully, I the camera was attached to my hip by this point and it came along for the ride.

This was in the early stages of the Occupy movement and was truly a memory to grasp for a lifetime. It was also my first leap into photographing people and began my obsession with street photography.

Going back over the imagery, I decided this could be the most appropriate collection to focus on for my first documentary photo essay.

The Project

Being as this was my first approach to a photo essay, I did not initially approach the demonstration with preconceptions for the result I wanted. So this is an example of reverse engineering a photo project.

Thankfully I was very prolific that evening and brought home a wonderful series, as well as audio from various speakers.

From this project, I will create a photo essay that attempts to capture the energy, the emotions and the passion I experienced while taking part in a global come-togetherness.

Occupy Chicago 2011

On October 15, 2011, nearly four and a half years ago now, my wife and I were still living in Chicago, IL.

Both of us being rather involved political advocates, in various layers of human rights issues, found ourselves in the midst of the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement. Particularly the growing “Occupy Chicago” division.

As some may know, October 15, 2011 was considered global protest day, coinciding with the 5-month anniversary of anti-austerity protests in Spain.

At the time, we were living in the Wrigleyville neighborhood and had been aware of the police related issues arising during these demonstrations, so we were admittedly reluctant to tussle with the local Windy City blue boys… for obvious reasons. However, our pride and yearning to participate in the event, which spanned 950+ cities worldwide, across 80+ countries, carried a much higher priority than my personal issues and bias regarding those wearing the shiny brass.

 

Mind you, this was early in my photographic pursuits, so my abilities were still being ironed out. Still, I found a deep need to document this historical day. Finding no satisfaction in the pedestrian, sidewalk flower shots that barely scratched the memory banks of my, at the time, rather minuscule archives. I had to do something that had meaning and substance.

So I packed my camera, we laced up the walking shoes, donned some thick coats and made our way to the Red line heading toward the Financial District of Chicago.

A price could not be put on the experience we had. An electricity of passion sparked through the crowds of 5000+ humans that filled the streets.

 

Throughout the evening, the march weaved in and out of the streets of downtown, culminating in a major grouping in the heart Grant Park. Here, thousands gathered with emotions turned up to 11. Organizers walked with megaphones in hand or took to the haphazardly installed loudspeaker system, speaking words of inspiration, rejuvenating the energy of the people, leading a chorus of “We are… the 99 Percent..” and “Whose Streets?… Our Streets!!!” filling the night air.

The tide, of course, turned south as the evening progressed, when 175 people found themselves bound and tossed in the back of squad cars. A fate which I myself narrowly missed.

Nevertheless, the demonstration set off a firestorm, inspiring numerous occupations to set up camp across the nation, which would last for the next couple of years. While this event established a dialog regarding the rising income inequality and corporate influence on the national government that threatens to silence the American voice, most today would say that little has changed in spite of it all. A sad result, from an otherwise noble effort.

All that said, it still proved that the people can stand together and will continue to stand together, fighting back when held down. Regardless of the issue at hand.

Being that I am currently focusing more on documentary work, it didn’t take me long to decide on the subject of choice for my first photo essay. It may be overdue to the game, with images marinating for many years… but “Occupy Chicago”, during the early weeks, established significant memories for me. Truth be told, it was this event that jump started my interest in Street Photography.

All imagery was taken on Oct 15, 2011 in Chicago, IL. Chants were recorded live, while marching through the city, documenting 5,000 fellow demonstrators… and the speech, is that of J.R. Fleming, Founder and Executive Director of the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign at the gathering in Grant Park, while a massive 20′ american flag flowed over the crowd.