1
Jerell Willis and his son Fidel cross the Brooklyn Bridge Zun Lee
My objective as a visual storyteller is to connect with individuals and families on an intimate level, especially if this leads to long-term trusted relationships. When collaborators find a level of vulnerability that allows them to reveal unseen aspects about themselves, a certain power and authenticity manifests in the small, ephemeral moments.

I capture these moments to challenge pervasive tropes regarding the depiction of African-Americans, whether it is the characterization of black males as violent criminals or as deadbeat dads, or the description of black families and communities solely as dysfunctional and despondent.

Workaday moments of ordinary black life are often not considered newsworthy. But it is these moments that represent quiet acts of resistance, reclaiming narrative without the need for big gestures or artificial iconography. My aim is to show African-Americans as empowered agents in their own lives, whose humanity doesn’t need explanation or defense.

See more of Zun Lee’s photography at www.zunlee.com

 

Jerell Willis carries his son Fidel across the Brooklyn Bridge. Jerell is a single father living on the Lower East Side, who went through a long and arduous legal process to obtain full custody of his son. Brooklyn, New York, November 2012.

Jerell Willis carries his son Fidel across the Brooklyn Bridge. Jerell is a single father living on the Lower East Side, who went through a long and arduous legal process to obtain full custody of his son. Brooklyn, New York, November 2012.

 

Carlos Richardson and daughter Selah enjoying a quiet moment after dinner. Atlanta, Georgia, October 2012.

Carlos Richardson and daughter Selah enjoying a quiet moment after dinner. Atlanta, Georgia, October 2012.

 

Billy Garcia enjoys an evening walk with his kids Esmeralda and Jeremy. Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, New York, September 2012.

Billy Garcia enjoys an evening walk with his kids Esmeralda and Jeremy. Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, New York, September 2012.

 

Bath time for Kai. St. Louis, Missouri, December 2014. Terence Mason ensures his son doesn't miss a spot. "Kai is five now, but one day we will have to have 'The Talk' with our son regarding how society will perceive him as a black male, and how to behave in public to minimize unforeseen harmful encounters. It shouldn't be something he should face, but unfortunately that will be our reality and we have to prepare him for it."

Bath time for Kai. St. Louis, Missouri, December 2014. Terence Mason ensures his son doesn't miss a spot. "Kai is five now, but one day we will have to have 'The Talk' with our son regarding how society will perceive him as a black male, and how to behave in public to minimize unforeseen harmful encounters. It shouldn't be something he should face, but unfortunately that will be our reality and we have to prepare him for it."

 

Christopher Williams with his longest-term customer, Melidor (last name not given), a 70 year-old retiree outside St. Louis, Missouri. Williams has been cutting Melidor's hair for over 14 years now. "Change happens slowly and gradually. It takes a lot of patience and hard work. And it's not glamorous. After all the media are gone and people stop talking about Ferguson, we'll still be here working."

Christopher Williams with his longest-term customer, Melidor (last name not given), a 70 year-old retiree outside St. Louis, Missouri. Williams has been cutting Melidor's hair for over 14 years now. "Change happens slowly and gradually. It takes a lot of patience and hard work. And it's not glamorous. After all the media are gone and people stop talking about Ferguson, we'll still be here working."

 

Artist Cbabi Bayoc at his SweetArt Bake Shop with his daughter Jurni in St. Louis, Missouri. The shop is only a few blocks away from the site of the October 8, 2014, Vonderrit Myers shooting. Bayoc opened his shop after hours during times of unrest to provide a safe haven for anyone residents and protesters.

Artist Cbabi Bayoc at his SweetArt Bake Shop with his daughter Jurni in St. Louis, Missouri. The shop is only a few blocks away from the site of the October 8, 2014, Vonderrit Myers shooting. Bayoc opened his shop after hours during times of unrest to provide a safe haven for anyone residents and protesters.

 

Cathy and Jerome Jenkins are the owners of Cathy's Kitchen in Ferguson, Missouri. The restaurant is a stone's throw from the Ferguson Police Department and was targeted by looters the night of the grand jury verdict. A group of local protesters formed a line of protection in front of the business to prevent destruction. Except for a broken window, Cathy's Kitchen remained unharmed. The next day, members of the community came to help with the clean-up.

Cathy and Jerome Jenkins are the owners of Cathy's Kitchen in Ferguson, Missouri. The restaurant is a stone's throw from the Ferguson Police Department and was targeted by looters the night of the grand jury verdict. A group of local protesters formed a line of protection in front of the business to prevent destruction. Except for a broken window, Cathy's Kitchen remained unharmed. The next day, members of the community came to help with the clean-up.

Read about strategies for creating inclusive newsrooms in our Race and Reporting cover package

Show comments / Leave a comment