This year has been a grueling one for all of us. It has sapped away at our being, our communities, our country, our patience, our very human souls. No matter what happens tomorrow, the fight is only beginning, and it very well may never end. I share these images with you both as a mea culpa, and as a shot in the arm as we all move forward into a difficult, constantly changing future.
As the pandemic was only just taking hold in America, I knew this country would fail to rise to meet this crisis with remarkable incompetence. Despite my years of urging others towards activism, to pay attention, to open their eyes, to broaden their ability to engage, this knowledge devastated and crushed me. It was as is God, Herself, crafted the perfect enemy to expertly and precisely illuminate to all the world the United State's glaring faults--to shine a light on them so bright even those most blinded by nationalism could not pretend all was well, and that America was still a nation supreme.
Exactly at the moment I should have risen up, I fell. Exactly at the moment I should have connected with others, I withdrew, Exactly at the moment I should have used my god given talents to inspire human passion unto others, I became robotic. After a decade of photographing people in the streets, and countless numbers of protests, some forgotten (Ferguson) and others remembered (George Floyd), the streets themselves literally called to me. No matter what my mental state was or however polluted my thoughts towards photography in the social media era had become, it was my duty to document the protests happening now, in my time, fighting for racial justice against the wishes of a racist nation. Photography is one of the few technological devices, gadgets, material *things* that truly does have a power to bring people closer rather than drive them farther apart. Please, look into the faces and the images I have captured here for you, and reflect.
Reflect on all that has changed and transpired this year. Lives lost, ideologies shattered, political narratives reshaped. Look to those around you and try to connect with those you know and those you may not know. In the cold, stark future which we may be facing, the simplest, boldest, most revolutionary act of all is to form an unselfish, open, vulnerable bond with another human. Not a transaction. Not documented for clout, or to “inspire” others, or marked under a hashtag. Ask yourself how you can be better. Look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you are living up to YOUR own stated ideals, or simply repeating bland platitudes to keep up appearances in your social circle.
Are you engaging sincerely with politics, with the fight for racial justice, or do you have an ulterior motive? Many people, including at places I’ve formerly been employed at, have suddenly found convenience in aligning themselves and their brands alongside BlackLivesMatter in a post George Floyd world. Many people long simply to see Trump deposed so we can return the “normalcy” that was the Obama years—bank bailouts and bombing of brown children.
Ask yourself: why do you care? Is it simply a given in your mind that you must care? DO you really even care? Do you value your pride and ego over truly learning how to be a better person, a better advocate, a better ally? Are your politics beyond rebuke in your own mind? Does attending a BLM protest, chanting a BLM slogan, or reposting a BLM meme preclude you from entertaining racist ideas, having been instilled with racist dogmas? Are we truly making meaningful, effective change, or are we going to forget about this movement, this moment, this political turmoil pregnant with purpose, or are just hacking at the branches?
For us to be better—for this world to be better, we can no longer be satisfied with addressing the low hanging fruit alone. We can no longer allow our deliberately shortened attention spans to discard important causes the moment they cease to be chic. If you truly want to make the world a better place, I believe it starts with the man in the mirror. Godspeed, and for the love of fucking GOD please go vote. Thanks fam.
Simon Chetrit is a 31 year-old photographer, born and raised in New York, NY. Aspiring early in life to be a game designer, his life’s course quickly changed upon the purchase of his first serious camera. Ever since then, he has been obsessed with the visual language of photography, especially as it pertains to weird and obscure Japanese cameras and the ephemera of analog. Simon lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.