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How do you document the Black Lives Matter movement? These 10 images are a powerful start.

These photos look past the chaos to see the people behind this impassioned fight for equality.

How do you document the Black Lives Matter movement? These 10 images are a powerful start.

When Natalie Keyssar graduated from art school in 2009, she was convinced she wanted to be a photojournalist instead.

She didn't want to spend her time by herself in a studio. She wanted to be out in the world, among the people exploring whatever was going on at the time.

She also found while studying painting that subjects that related to current events, activism, and protest movements inspired her. The young artist was using a lot of photojournalism as reference for her paintings in art school.


Keyssar already knew about color and composition from studying art. She just needed to hone her photography skills. She took on internships to get that coveted hands-on experience.  

"I think in a lot of ways painting and photography are almost the same thing in certain ways — it's just a different tool," she muses.

Keyssar grew up in North Carolina. She says as a kid she was always very aware of, and outraged by, instances involving police brutality.

Then in the fall of 2014, a wave of societal unrest erupted, beginning with the shooting of an unarmed young black man.

On Aug. 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, just outside St. Louis.

"I had a sense that it was gonna be a really important moment in America, historically," Keyssar explains. She never gave it a second thought. She just had to go and cover the tragic shooting that would take her on a yearlong journey of documentation and discovery.

Here are 10 of the most powerful images by Keyssar from the #BlackLivesMatter movement:

1. Bishop Derrick Robinson is arrested on Nov. 30, 2014, in Ferguson.

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

This particular image stands out in Keyssar's mind, she says, because it encompasses the unrest at the time. Robinson is a prominent leader of the Black Lives Matter movement. She remembers him peacefully protesting outside a Rams game in St. Louis at a public park.

"Riot police just went for him. I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a police officer, but as a journalist, I saw nobody break any kind of law," Keyssar says. "I just saw five men in full tactical gear tackle a clergyman to the ground and arrest him for peacefully protesting in a public park. That was profoundly disturbing to me, and honestly I think it should be profoundly disturbing to everyone."

2. Kids dance to music playing from a truck with the words "no shoot, no loot" on Aug. 19, 2014, in Ferguson.

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

3. Carrie Chambers poses for a photo on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson on Aug. 19, 2014.

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

4. A protester is bathed in police lights after the Millions March on Dec. 13, 2014, following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

5. Thousands of protesters take to the streets in Baltimore on April 29, 2015, following the death of Freddie Gray.

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

6. Police dressed in tactical gear enforce a curfew in Baltimore on April 28, 2015.

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

Keyssar says she was used to seeing other issues abroad. "Seeing this sort of really, really militarized police landscape in this American, sort of traditional stereotypical American landscape was sort of profound for me."

7. "I love peace and harmony and joy," said 87-year-old Clara Thornton, pictured below. "I'm praying for both sides ... we're all children of God."

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

8. Artist Dimitri Reeves performs Michael Jackson covers in Baltimore on May 1, 2015, after it was announced charges would be filed in the Freddie Gray case.

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

9. A man in his car shows support to protesters with a gesture in Baltimore on April 28, 2015.

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

10. Marcus Mopkins wipes off the sweat from his brow before posing for a portrait in Ferguson on Aug. 19, 2014.

Image by Natalie Keyssar, used with permission.

This last image is also profoundly special to Keyssar. Marcus was one of the first people she photographed when she got to Ferguson. It was brutally hot that day, but he was dedicated. She considers him her introduction to this powerful experience that began in Ferguson.

"My goal with my work is always to convey nuance and create a jumping off point for a complex and necessary conversation."

What Keyssar doesn't want is for her work to reinforce anyone's biased narrative.

She wants her images from Ferguson, Baltimore, and New York to show the breadth of people, the humanity of those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I really want people to see other people. I think that's the foundation."

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When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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