Saturday, August 11, 2012

SlutWalk DC 2012

This year went far more smoothly and comfortably than my experiences last year, when I'd battled camera issues and dashed through less-than-pleasant weather to try and get there.  Furthermore, I felt a bit more relaxed and sociable this time around.

When I arrived at Lafayette Square I still lingered hesitantly about, focusing more on group shots and photos of people a bit more conservatively covered.  As I said in last year's post: I was raised in a rather puritan area and feel a bit awkward photographing people who are not fully clothed unless I ask for permission, and it seems strange to ask for permission to photograph a woman's scantily-clad body when you're at an event that is protesting objectification of women.

I have to remind myself that I am there to document an event and help get its message across.  This can help motivate me to photograph things I may be a bit more hesitant about, but can also help keep my mind on a straight course if I do become... um... distracted... which is to say: I am a heterosexual male and there's no denying that there were some attractive women present; but that would be exactly the wrong reason to be there.  My photos are not for me; they are for the group of people in front of the lens.

Fortunately, there were a number of creative signs and fashions which kept me occupied for that initial period of time at Lafayette.  And there were a few loquacious ladies showing a bit more skin who were delightedly posing for photographers, helping break my initial timidness.  So to that I especially want to thank Elly (in the photo at right: blue top and pink bottom), who was my first of that variety & was fun to chat with for that brief duration.

By the time we'd left Lafayette I'd started getting into the swing of photographing everyone & also striking up conversation.  I especially like that last point... makes me feel less like one of the creeper dudes who wears a large-brimmed hat, has a bushy mustache, and is quietly taking pictures from the perimeter.  Later on I'd take off my shirt, completing a transition into someone who could be misconstrued as a participant.

Not to say I necessarily wasn't a supporter; I just try and stay vehemently neutral whenever I'm doing photos.  Listening in on the speakers this year I felt it was more strongly focused on personal anecdotes, whereas last year seemed a bit more focused on calls-to-action amid the stories.  Last year I'd felt there were a number of things I'd disagreed with, but this year it seemed I had a bit more shared sentiment.

During the march from Lafayette Square to the National Mall, I dashed back and forth along the length of the march trying to snap photos of just about everyone in the group.  It was interesting to see how people would react, with some ignoring the photographers, some intentionally staying straight-laced and serious, and some putting on a massive smile or -- in one case -- a delightfully goofy face (one of my favorite photos from the whole event).  I also loved the passion held by Catherine as she snapped photos along the march, putting on a picture-perfect pose that I only wish she'd held a bit longer so I could get a better-composed shot.

By the time we arrived at the Sylvan Theatre I was leaving a trail of sweat behind me, taking on a body odor where "horrendous" would only begin to describe a room filled with roses and lavender.  While the brutal heat wave of the summer had broken in the sense that were were finally not hitting triple-digits anymore, it was still hitting about 90°... which felt cool for most purposes but was pretty rough when repeatedly running to catch up to the front of the group again.  Plus the humidity... oh my, the humidity.  That's DC, alright.  It wasn't too long after arriving at the Mall's Sylvan Theatre when I'd stripped off my shirt and continued on my rounds of photographing everybody.

I'm pretty sure I managed to get photos of just about everyone there.  Not a single person denied a photo and most struck a great smile, with the day's excitement giving them great poise -- I don't think I had a single subject which didn't turn out a good photo.  While editing my photos later on I'd come to find I'd captured some people several times without realising it, including Jessica, who I'd completely missed at the event itself but afterward came to discover that she's been to a number of events I've personally had a hand in running -- DC's No Pants Metro Ride, Pillowfight, Survive DC, etc... it was a bit surreal to get to chatting with someone over Twitter despite having been within arms reach of her on at least a half-dozen occasions & probably having photographs of her over the course of several years.

At one point I recall heading to grab a swig of water and one of the ladies at the table raising awareness for National Go-Topless Day called for me to come over.  I'd uttered an exasperated "one moment" as I dove for the water fountain, next turning my attention to her and learning about National Go-Topless Day coming up on August 26th.  She invited me to come photograph the event and assured me that I've been a good fit as a photographer (yay! Confirmation I'm not a creeper!).

Of course, that coincides with the weekend my friend Andrea is visiting... I'm not entirely sure if I can sell it to her given these intricacies of: (1) It's a rally in DC instead of usual tourist fare, (2) I don't know her opinions on the subject, (3) I don't know if she'd be bored as I was taking photos, (4) I don't know if she'd be weirded out because I'm taking photos, (5) I don't know if she'd want to join in or not & it'd be kind of awkward to proposition that to her, and (6) if she did... do I photograph her?  It's simply easier taking photos of strangers... or at least folk that you meet at such an event since that sort-of sets those foundations of what is and is-not taboo.

Fun tidbit, by the way: it's legal to be topless in DC.  Actually, as long as it's not sexualised: you're allowed to go all-out naked in DC.  I actually learned this while chatting with some Metro Transit Police officers during the last No Pants Metro Ride, where they cautioned that if anyone decides to go down to more than their skivvies (which isn't something we suggest, but just in case) they should make sure not to ride across into Virginia or Maryland, where neither state permits such degrees of nudity.  But really, I'd think that if someone felt up to it: one could force a case through either state that it is discriminatory to allow men to be topless but not women; which is much of the driving force behind National Go-Topless Day.

It was while I was here where I'd met the guy in a badger costume, which seemed a little strange... also that he was quite adamant for me to take his picture with the topless woman.  But I didn't want to pry in to that.  I'm of the nature that if you're going to do something, attend something, say something, whatever-something that's controversial: own up to it; make it your own.  If you can't accept the consequences: you aren't committed to your opinions.  And if you try and hide from public view while being in public... well, either you're on the internet or you're being a bit of an oddity.

Anyways, a photo of the badger guy with the topless woman is here (NSFW), which I don't show here only because I don't feel like marking this blog post as moderate (even though really there shouldn't be any difference than if it were a man... again the whole point behind Go-Topless Day).

Also at this tent was when a woman, Mindi, walked up to me to exchange contact info.  I remembered photographing her before and striking up conversation- particularly in that not only was she cute and I'd gotten a great photo of her sign back at Lafayette, but she was carrying the exact same model of camera as I was carrying.  And I can't turn down a chat with a woman carrying an SLR... it's become a weakness of mine.

But I was definitely taken aback slightly in that my overwhelming stench didn't keep her at bay... that's what was running through my head, and in my head it seemed so funny that I'd nearly broken out laughing for what would have appeared to have been no apparent reason.  Prompting the "I'm not demented!" defense, even though on some occasions I question whether that's a true statement.  I did get a great testimonial from Mindi later that week, however, which I plan to post any time I ever need a testimonial: "You're not a weirdo!"

Sorry if most of this post is about me feeling like I'm a creeper... but seriously, that's what's running through my head half the time.  I have to admit that we both do the same things: take photos of people.  If we do it from a distance: a photographer just calls them "candids".  Granted, a pricier camera helps set me apart... but really the only difference is that bit I said about how our mind processes the event: I'm here not for me; but to document & help share the message.

There were some great presenters on stage.  The opening band was decent and brought a great energy to kick things off.  Each of its band members was also quite photogenic, and I especially loved the colors and facial expressions I got of their lead singer.

I especially liked Maureen, a marine who had a story about another marine -- a man much like a brother to her -- who assaulted her for several hours but escaped without due punishment.  I'd gotten a number of photos of her as she'd marched from Lafayette as she put on such a strong look -- her face exemplified what a marine looks like: strong, determined, and with a fierce will.  It was a stark contrast to listen to her story and see her expression change as she became less a soldier and more a human.  But even as a shimmer of tears came to her eyes, her gaze still kept that show of strength.

I did not catch the name of another presenter -- a thin red-haired woman who shared a background as a soldier.  She was among my favorite subjects to photograph that day but also one of the only people who didn't crack a smile the entire time -- keeping a serious expression the full duration of the event.  She'd stood at the corner of the stage as other presenters shared their stories, holding her sign above her head and showing an endurance that I surely could not match.  Not only was she downright beautiful to photograph, but her anger showed through very well into so many of my photos.  It was when she took to the microphone when her hardened military exterior melted away and she, as with Maureen before her, became a person.

I made sure to snap photos of some of the volunteers and support staff -- particularly those handing out water (THANKS!!!) as well as the sign language interpreters.  One of the interpreters was downright striking -- oh, what I would give to photograph her eyes.

One of the last people I'd photographed was a woman holding a sign that read "I'm not here for your viewing pleasure."  I couldn't help but remark at the irony of this as she posed for my photo.

I'd started processing all the photos with great zeal, but I can see a remarkable difference between photos I'd worked on initially and those I'm working on later on... namely: I've gotten far lazier with my efforts to properly adjust colors.  You can spot my later uploads by the strong yellow/green hues...

And with that I've somewhat run out of words but still have a bunch of photos I want to showcase... so below I just present a bunch of center-aligned photos for your perusal.  Enjoy!