Discover how documentary photographer, Ruddy Roye uses photography as a tool to amplify unheard voices in his community about stories of injustice and inequality through visual stories that show pride, resilience and unity. Learn more about Ruddy’s perspective on COVID-19, fatherhood, and day-to-day experiences in today’s climate in our #StayHomeWithLeica talk on on Sun. (June 14) at 4 PM ET. Click here to register.
1. What motivates you to attend a demonstration, camera in hand?
One of my motivating factors is the idea that I am working for a future I might not get to see. I believe in that little boy or little girl waiting in the future for me to finish the work so that they can continue it. This thought gets me up in the mornings – not a paycheck. I see the demonstrations as a direct link to the past and the future, and I try to see myself humbly affecting both.
2. What moments do you seek to capture?
I looking to capture images that show strength and resilience. I am looking for images that portray an attitude of defiance – an unapologetic response to injustice.
3. How does your personal opinion of the demonstration impact how you tell your visual stories?
Artists are said to be some of the most narcissistic people on this earth. I don’t know how true this is. What I do know is that I have a responsibility to create a piece of work that is as authentic as I can. That said, I do question the role of demonstrations and protests in 2020. They feel more like performances – whether done to be seen or to generate likes on TikTok or Instagram, it’s hard to tell these days.
4. While out photographing, what moments have left an indelible impression?
I think the moments where I can lower the camera for a second and share a story or stories with someone I am photographing. For instance, I recently met someone who we ended up talking about how difficult it has been to photographing white protesters shouting that they can’t breathe.
5. What precautions are you taking as you’re out documenting protests?
I think I have been trying to photograph from a distance. It is a different look for me as I am so used to photographing the rhythm of someone’s heart. I believe you have to be close to do that, however since the Covid pandemic I have adopted this look of distance in my photography. I wear my masks when I remember it. Funny enough, my waist level view finder keeps fogging up, and sometimes I miss focus, but it is all in the name of safety.
6. In editing your images, what emotions are evoked as you relive the moments?
Pride, strength, resilience, are the three that first come to mind. Sometimes I think I am just reintroducing another perspective. There is nothing new under the sun, but I believe that sometimes ideas a born too early. Sometimes they are not supported when they were initially introduced or enacted. I like to reintroduce old ideas, wrapping them inside of a different look for us to review and critique. I would like to think my images serve as a provocateur so that we can engage in constructive critique.
7. How are you using your images to amplify a message?
I also make images that challenges old stereotypes. There are photographers in 2020 who still believe that the colonial way of making images is still relevant.
8. What message do you hope your photos will tell for years to come?
I have no idea how people will interpret my images when I am gone. It is one of the reasons I leave these long captions (breadcrumbs) as guides so that my voice will accompany my images for as long as possible. I want my images to say that the people I photographed were beautiful, nuanced, complex, strong, resilient, loving, forgiving and human.
9 .What advice do you have for photographers that are currently out photographing demonstrations?
Think. Don’t just click. Ask yourself this question, “What are you documenting and for whom?.