Photos by Liz Brown
Let me start by saying this: I’m a terrible photographer, and I’m not a fan of standing up.
I’m a writer and a sitter downer. I’ve also got a condition that restricts me to seeing out of only one eye at a time, which means I’ve got half the perspective of your run of the mill Dorothea Lange wannabe. Still, I dragged myself down to the Occupy L.A. protest on Saturday, armed with my old, piece of shit (hot pink-for breast cancer awareness) digital camera that I bought from a drug store and my half-charged cell phone-because it’s important to have a back up. I figured that if the mainstream media was truly ignoring a people’s movement and there was no one else covering the protest, then my terrible pictures would be better than nothing.
I had flattered myself.
Occupy L.A. was like a people’s media cattle call. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting an amateur photojournalist. You also couldn’t throw a rock because one of the more intense hippies would have insisted on giving you a “free hug”. My fantasy of being the heroic lone member of the people’s media was quickly dashed. I was surrounded by little old ladies and teenagers taking pictures with equipment vastly superior to my own.
I watched a platoon of professional photographers sprint through the crowd like a pack of Kenyan marathoners, running ahead of us to get the best shots. I felt a surge of adrenaline and chased after them, running up a hill in sweaty, baggy jeans. After about a quarter of a mile, I stopped for a moment to ponder vomiting and see what my shots looked like so far. They astoundingly bad. Like “I’ve-taken-better-shots-from-inside-my-purse” bad.
I felt inferior, redundant and sweaty. I could have been enjoying a Saturday afternoon at home writing and not standing up. And my camera battery was dying.
I saw a woman sprawled out on the pavement taking shots of the protesters marching towards her with a telephoto lens.
Show off, I thought to myself, stewing. I took her picture.
I felt clever, and took another shot of a serious looking man in a Panama hat, who was taking a picture of a someone else’s protest sign (or their ass). Then, I took a picture of guy videotaping himself commenting on the protest. Then, I took a picture of guy videotaping a woman taking a picture of one of the speakers outside City Hall.
And voila–a novelty photo slideshow was born.
I felt empowered and brilliant–like a freshman year art school student before her first soul-crushing critique. My Postmodernism teacher would have been so proud.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the “people’s media”. Or, as I like to call them, “71 People at Occupy LA with Better Cameras than Mine”: