Thursday, 15 December 2016

Narrative images: A protester is being physically removed, Los Angeles, 1965

"Pictures told, for those who could not see themselves, of the strength and beauty of the people, of the hostility and anger of the opposition, and of the promise of a world free of racism."
Julian Bond

"These resonant pictures and their recurring themes should remind us that racism and concerted efforts to roll back hard-won civil rights gains persist. The ongoing and constantly evolving struggle against police brutality and militarism, entrenched poverty, institutionalized racism, and everyday microaggressions suggests that photographs will continue to play a crucial role in documenting the struggle and advancing the much-needed dialogue around it."
Mark Speltz
The photograph was taken by Charles Brittin (1928-2011) who was called “one of the great civil and political photographers of the age” (via) but whose work, nevertheless, "is not as revered in Los Angeles as his work deserves" (via). Charles Brittin was rather unknown (via).
"Rather than the familiar images of brutality in Selma from March of 1965, Speltz found Charles Brittin’s dramatic photographs of a protest reacting to that violence in Los Angeles, where a tight focus shows black women being violently removed by white hands from the demonstration." (via)
"Alive during the intersection of some of the most seminal movements in American history—Beat culture, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panthers, and protests against the Vietnam war—Brittin documented key people, places, and events with his powerful, compassionate photographs. He was active during the 1950s and 1960s, living in pre-gentrified Venice Beach, L.A., an outpost for outsiders and activists."
Brittin lived in the Fairfax arae where he was "politically and culturally awakened". In the early 1960s, the focus of his life shifted and he got involved with the Congress of Racial Equality and the Black Panthers. Brittin started documenting civil rights demonstrations: "I suddenly realized I was compelled to do something because the times demanded it."  (via and via). His third wife, Barbara, shared his commitment to activism (via)
"While donating money to the Congress of Racial Equality, the couple attended a meeting where the group posed a question: "Who is prepared to be arrested this week?"
"'In six months, Barbara was teaching techniques of nonviolent resistance, and I was taking political photographs.'" (via).
"In 1962 Charles Brittin and his wife, Barbara, chose to forgo Christmas presents and instead send donations and join area groups and social causes they identified with. The couple attended a local meeting of the civil rights organization Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and became actively engaged. Charles combined his artistic sensibilities and concern for social justice and became CORE’s local photographer. Brittin attended meetings, nonviolence training seminars, demonstrations, and rallies with a camera in hand and a growing awareness about how photography could advance the cause.
The resulting pictures showed up in CORE brochures, leaflets, and fundraising materials and were sent to news outlets and sympathetic publications covering local and national campaigns. Like some of the best-known civil rights era imagery, Brittin’s compelling pictures helped activists raise awareness, communicate issues more clearly, and solicit badly-needed financial support."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- Speltz, M. (2016). North of Dixie. Civil Rights Photography Beyond the South. Los Angeles: Getty Publications
- photograph by Charles Brittin (1965) via, copyright by the owner(s)
- similar photographs by Charles Brittin: LINK and LINK and LINK and LINK


  1. Love your narrative images series!

    1. Photographs can be so powerful, I'm happy to hear you like the series. I do appreciate that. Thanks!

  2. Replies
    1. Brittin's photograph is really great. Thank you, Kenneth!

  3. Replies
    1. I totally agree, it is such a special photograph. Thank you, Wim!

  4. This photograph is beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

    1. I know what you mean. I found it difficult to call it beautiful although it is - but in a different sense. Thanks, Macy!