[Editor's Note: Hannah Dugan is a photographer here in Portland, and has been documenting the many marches and rallies against police brutality. Here she shares some of her more memorable shots, and describes what she sees when she looks at them and the meaning they hold.]
I am struck by this image every time I come across it. The protester on the left, with tears on their face and a profound tiredness in their eyes, holds the exhaustion that sparked this movement. They represent a moment of quiet, without words declaring that silence is complicity. Though their neighbor’s defiant gaze and challenging sign offers an entirely different expression, they are two sides of the same coin. You cannot make sense of this movement without both. The protester on the far right completes the sentence beautifully with their presence and sign.
This is a very tactile image. You can feel the hot, oily metal under this protester’s hands, you can feel the loose gravel dig into their exposed knee. You can see strength and power in their arms, even as they are in a very vulnerable position. I feel this could be as good a description of this movement as any.
For eight minutes, protesters were instructed to kneel with hands in the air. It's not hard to imagine this person’s hard gaze is directed at the law enforcers executing a racially profiled takedown, rather than a simulated experience.
This image is a sad rhyme to George Floyd’s death. The victim’s now famous last words are etched into the ground of Pioneer Courthouse Square, where they're trampled on by the feet of an unaware protester. This recalls the literal constriction of Floyd’s voice by a cop's knee on his neck.
Protesters lay down on the Burnside Bridge with hands behind their backs. To me, this image conveys some of the closeness and grittiness of those nine minutes.
The reality of ongoing police brutality is, of course, the spark fueling these peaceful protests. The person here serves as a witness to the crowds, startling with their bare skin and giant rubber bullet welt. A small radius of space forms as they make concrete the abstract, inviting protesters to remember and reclaim a sense of immediacy.
Protesters stop on the Burnside Bridge on their way downtown, taking a knee in preparation for nine minutes of silently lying face down.
I appreciate the simple elements in this detail photo that work to tell the story—the rough edge of a large banner, hands clasped, a diagonal gradient of light working its way across the scene.
This woman turns to face the crowd as they chant “hands up, don’t shoot.” The multitude of characters in the background convey the energy and action of the moment, but ultimately their disparate activities only serve to accentuate her singular focus.
The banner’s message is cropped but the meaning is all there and more. We are reminded not just that Black lives matter, but of Black power itself.
Hannah Dugan is a writer and freelance photographer from Portland, Oregon. You can see more of her work on Instagram and her website.