Artist: Will Warasila
Project: Photographs from George Floyd’s Memorial Service in Raeford, North Carolina. June 6, 2020
Description: In a series of photographs documenting George Floyd’s memorial service in Raeford, North Carolina, Will Warasila interrogates the relationship between photographer and subject and the privilege inherent in the act of creating photographs. Initially reluctant to photograph the protests unfolding across the country, Warasila chose instead to attend the demonstrations sans camera. But upon hearing about the memorial, the North Carolina native found himself called to document it, recounting the experience below.
As a photographer—and more recently, as a teacher of photography—I ask myself and my students to consistently think deeply and critically about the historical relationship between photographers and the people we photograph before making any image. I think about how every time I am in the position of operating a camera, I enter into that history. I ask my students to think about this too, to consider the role images have played in history, and how this is still the case in our current state of the world.
I had to ask myself whether or not, as a white Southern man, I should document the service, and if so, how. I decided to use a medium format film camera, a camera that sits at my waist, not my eye, so as to make straight-forward photographs of what I was witnessing, and to let the people I was photographing present themselves directly to the camera.
Before arriving at the service, I was overwhelmed by and angry at the awful state of our county, at systemic racism, and police brutality. But on this day, when I stood with the crowd, camera by my waist, I was overcome with emotion by those who were there to celebrate George Floyd’s life, and by the collective acknowledgement of this historic moment.