04 June 2020

The power of pictures: America 2020

This post is not meant to make you comfortable. It contains a lot of images that range anywhere from  unsettling to terrifying. Just putting that out there before going on.

This is not a political blog, but I don’t want to continue with “business as usual” here with the fear, pain, and turmoil that is going on in the United States this week. This is where I live and where a lot of my readers live. I want to take a moment to say:

Black lives matter.

We are not out of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

American democracy is at risk.

But this blog is about the power of visuals. Photographers have been brilliant in documenting America in 2020, vividly distilling turbulent times with unforgettable images.

Line of voters in masks, with first in line holding a sign saying, "This is ridiculous".

Patricia McKnight’s photo of Wisconsin voters. 7 April 2020.

Nurse with arms crossed staing in middle of road, blocking vechicle with woman leaning out of window with "Land of the free" sign

Alyson McLaren’s photo of nurses counter-protesting in Denver. 19 April 2020.

Man, not wearing mask, yelling at Michigan State Police, wearing masks.

Jeff Kowalsky’s photo of white man in the face of state police in Michigan’s capital. 30 April 2020.

Nathan Aguirre’s picture of Deveonte Joseph in his graduation gown during a protest in St. Paul. 28 May 2020.

Nick Swartsell’s picture of Cincinnati protest. 29 May 2020. (But he says, “Please stop using this photo to shame.”)

Man silhoutetted behind upside down US flag, walking in front of buildings on fire

Julio Cortez’s picture of Minneapolis. 29 May 2020.

Sculpture of two hands, palms up, with red paint spilling from them

Artist and photographer unknown. A sculpture called “To serve and protect,” from Salt Lake City, Utah, after protests against police violence. 31 May 2020.

Three policemen in riot gear, one pointing a rubber bullet gun at a black girl riding on a man's shoulders

Richard Grant’s picture of police pointing a rubber bullet gun at a black girl in Long Beach, California. 31 May 2020.

Martha Raddatz’s tweet of the Lincoln memorial. 2 June 2020.

• • • • •

I don’t think verbal descriptions could capture how dire the situation this moment is for America. If you had shown me these not long ago, I might have guessed they were from some overblown movie.

The lesson for posters? Use more photos.

I may add to this post as I spot more photos. If you want to suggest an addition, email me or tweet @Better_Posters.

Update, 29 June 2020:

Lawrence Bryant’s picture of an armed St. Louis couple confronting peaceful Black Lives Matters protesters. 28 June 2020.

There are many pictures of this incident. Many show only the woman, including the first I saw making the rounds today (by Lauri Skrivan, fifth from top here). I prefer this one because it shows both man and woman, and importantly, who the guns are being drawn against.

• • • • •

Update, 25 July 2020:

Dumpster painted as US flag

Robert McNees says of this picture, “At what point is something too literal to be a metaphor.” 14 July 2020.

Man in battle gear dragging away woman in mask

Portland. This photo is making the round on Twitter without credit. This tweet has the earliest timestamp I have been able to find, so the picture was probably taken the night or early morning of 23-24 July.

Update, 27 August 2020:

California wildfire over sign for "Senior Center: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Social distance. Stay safe. Come join us."

The California wildfires meets COVID-19. Photo by Noah Berger. Hat tip to Rupert Myers.

Update, 29 August 2020:

Protestors with signs saying "Trump failed 180,000+ died" while fireworks go off behind them with Washington Monument in background

There are many pictures of this protest on the last night of the US Republican National Convention (27 August 2020). This particular image is from here.

Update, 22 January 2021: Yes, these are from a while back.
Donald Trump at podium with Exit sign in foreground.

From after the 2020 election.

External links

'Everyone Was Screaming at Them.' The Story Behind Those Photos of the Counter-Protesting Health Care Workers
Michigan man in now-famous Capitol protest photo: 'I didn't scream in anybody's face'
This is a graduation. No wonder they wore caps and gowns.
US riots: Rubber bullet gun pointed at child at Long Beach protest

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