Joshua Rashaad McFadden, a visual artist and photographer, is documenting Black Lives Matters protests and civil unrest across the country. His recent work has appeared in major publications.
“Like Nina Simone says,” said McFadden,” you must make work about the times. It’s an artist’s duty to make work about the times that they live in.”
The Rochester native, who is an assistant professor in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences in RIT’s College of Art and Design, felt compelled to do more after his local exhibit ‘Evidence’ at Visual Studies Workshop was canceled due to the pandemic. The series included archived portraits of Black men, with an objective to explore conceptions of Black masculinity and gender identity.
"I was okay with the exhibit being closed down,” said McFadden, “if that means it was going to save lives. It's also interesting that the exhibit was talking about a different pandemic. Police brutality, negative perceptions of Black people, and how that causes violence against them; against their bodies; against their meaning."
Like the rest of the world, McFadden saw the video of George Floyd who died in police custody.
“I was in a state of shock,” said McFadden, “a state of anger. The fact that I’ve been doing this work; documenting protests since 2013. I begin to wonder, ‘Well what is this work doing?’”
McFadden took the initiative and drove to Minneapolis, on the frontlines of the emerging movement against police brutality and racial injustice. He has photographed the protests for weeks now. He reflected and shared insight after his first full day of documenting the protests.
“I saw people talking about what happened,” said McFadden. “I saw business owners boarding up their windows; business owners placing signs that said ‘Black Lives Matter’ in support of protests. A few hours later, I begin to see the fires happen. The people of Minneapolis have been out protesting twenty-four seven. When the news leaves people are still there protesting peacefully. That's a lot of what people don't see."
McFadden attended and photographed George Floyd’s memorial service in Minneapolis where hundreds gathered and mourned, including Floyd’s family.
The fearless photographer’s latest coverage includes protests and unrest in Atlanta, in response to the fatal police shooting of a man named Rashard Brooks at a Wendy’s drive-thru. Mcfadden captured the outrage that followed when the Atlanta Wendy’s was set ablaze and quickly engulfed in flames.
McFadden’s work has received national attention and even made the cover of The New York Times. He pays special attention and focuses his camera lens on the younger protesters.
“To get their views,” said McFadden, “and begin to understand how they feel. I know when I was 21; 22, when Trayvon Martin was murdered, it was really the first time we’ve seen a big movement happen for our generation. The next generation, they’ve seen it for the past seven years; every year. I think it’s important to understand that.”
McFadden says he is on a mission and does not plan on stopping anytime soon.
"People don't see the humanity of Black people,” said McFadden. “One of the special things about photography is it should expose the humanity of anyone."
More of McFadden’s ongoing work can be found here.