Readily equipped with his Leica M10 Monochrom and face mask, Stephen Vanasco takes on the streets of Los Angeles during a time of conflict, documenting the compassion, empathy and honesty of humanity.
What motivates you to attend a demonstration, camera in hand?
The motivation comes from recognizing that we all have a voice during these times. We all should be using our voices in the strongest way we know. For some it is writing, painting, their wallet for donations, sharing petitions for change on social media….. mine is photography. Collectively, with everyone speaking up together, our voices become more amplified.
What moments do you seek to capture?
There are obviously various angles to cover at these demonstrations. For myself, I am more focused on showcasing the unity of people coming together to be heard. Showing the focus of change that is being made by people from all walks of life.
How does your personal opinion of the demonstration impact how you tell your visual stories?
I never thought about that because my personal opinion is on the side of the the people coming out and demanding change. My sense of empathy and recognition of humanity at hand allows me to make photos from an honest place.
While out photographing, what moments have left an indelible impression?
I would say it is mainly the the faces of the speakers/organizers along with people in the crowd. You can sense the emotions that they are feeling when they speak, when they cry, when call out to everyone attending to continue change. The other is all of the strong women coming out with their children. Women… mothers are powerful …. to see them embracing with their children at these times…. leaves me speechless.
What precautions are you taking as you’re out documenting protests?
Given we are still in a pandemic, my first precaution is my mask. The others are be aware of surroundings. Be aware of people’s space. As a photographer being respectful to people’s moments, this is where the role of empathy plays a huge role. Also, what has been happening recently is the crows self regulating to anyone feeling/looking to vandalize, damage or start a fight. Even though you have a camera sometimes you have to put that aside for what is going on.
Which of your images motivates you to make the next?
During these moments it is being attentive to what is going on- looking around for something that is an honest genuine moment for something that will be said and understood in the photo.
In editing your images, what emotions are evoked as you relive the moments?
Just reliving emotions you experience with everyone in the crowd at that moment knowing you are part of the change that is happening.
How are you using your images to amplify a message?
Given the power of social media outlets, I am just sharing them with a bit of context in the caption. I feel very humbled when I see people sharing these photos. or leaving messages in regards to them.
What message(s) do you hope your photos will tell for years to come?
I suppose it would be to not only in years to come but right now at the moment show how we as people, as a country came together in such an explosive way to demand change and reform goes back to I want my narrative to showcase the rebuilding not the destruction.
What advice do you have for photographers that are currently out photographing demonstrations?
Take a step back and think about what you are photographing. Don’t let your narrative be a constant negative. You are a visual author. Think about which conclusion your viewer is going to come to if all you choose to show is looting and vandalism. There should be a balance to tell a proper story.
Could you tell us about the images in the series, sharing the thought process as you press the shutter?
The are some photos that stand out…. but all together honest moments showing people that are there to bring change is my thought process and my drive. Mothers with their kids, people of all colors standing together. When you look out into a group shot you see all types of faces. Going back to my first answer here…. visually using my voice to express my thoughts and feelings on these times… and to be heard.
View More of Stephen’s Work on Instagram