By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
“It’s difficult to keep living these over and over again, sort of like a perverse Groundhog Day where these murders just keep on happening,” visual artist Jon Henry tells Lonnae O’Neal for Nat Geo.
In the series “Stranger Fruit,” Henry examines police killings of Black men and boys. He poses Black mothers with their sons in the classic pietà, a grieving Mary holding the dead body of Christ. (Pictured above, on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.)
On a week when a new police shooting, this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin, roils a nation, and when thousands of people will mark the anniversary of 1963’s March on Washington, I wanted to show you some of Henry’s work. (The full story is here.)
It’s not easy viewing, and few images in our culture have the universal shared humanity of the pietà. As O’Neal observes: “It costs you dearly to see them. But it costs more to look away.”
She adds: “It is the Black mother’s gaze that implicates the nation and demands that it change."
Above left, North Little Rock, Arkansas; to the right, Central Los Angeles, California.
Above, in West Orange, New Jersey.
Above, in North Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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Today in a minute
After the iconic photograph: We were among many news organizations that published Noah Berger’s AP photo of a California wildfire. The image showed both the flames engulfing a senior center, and a sign in the foreground promoting face-mask use and social distancing. New York Times reporter Jack Healy went to the site and talked with neighbors, including a person who lost her trailer home and, days earlier, found out that her 92-year-old dad had COVID-19. “2020 can go to hell,” Juli Vollmer told Healy.
1940s New York: Think of Google Street View, if it had existed seven decades ago. That’s the premise of this online interactive map built with photographs from 1939 and 1941, PetaPixel reports. In those years, the city worked with the Works Progress Administration to photograph every building in the city. The online map also lets you show where you are in the city to show you what used to be there.
Wuhan parties: We’ve shown you how people have partied on a Polish beach. Here’s the look from a packed pool party two weeks ago in the Chinese city where the first #COVID19 case was reported. Now This News says that Wuhan hasn’t reported a coronavirus case since May.
Your Instagram of the day
The original March on Washington: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights and religious leaders stood with massive crowds as they prepared to lead one of the largest protest marches in the U.S. This image came from the National Museum of African American History and Culture and was displayed as part of a museum “takeover” of our Instagram page. The museum’s rare and iconic images from the 1963 march come as Americans descend on Washington, D.C., to commemorate this watershed moment. Here is the museum’s resource page on the march, and here are recent Nat Geo stories on race and this moment.
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The big takeaway
Photographing history: For Nat Geo’s James P. Blair there was no question he would cover the 1963 March on Washington. He took the day off, and witnessed a monumental day in America’s movement for civil rights. His photos went into our archives and have been rarely seen until now. Blair, now 89, recalled positioning himself perfectly for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” When King “raised his hand and he said, ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last,’ I went click, click, click,” Blair told Nat Geo’s Rachel Hartigan on the eve of this weekend’s march. See the photos.
In a few words
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The last glimpse
In spite of censorship: Iran’s filmmakers have had to tread carefully and restrict their content over the past few decades, but they have created stunning works. In this image, used for a 1999 National Geographic story, photographer Alexandria Avakian shows director Bahram Beyzaie (pictured above in green), on set. Avakian photographed a number of stories for Nat Geo on life in the Islamic Republic, says our senior photo archivist, Sara Manco. “Her focus on daily life brings an intimacy to her imagery, while also reflecting the country in a modern context,” Manco writes. “The dramatic light and contrasting colors of the blue and red make this a visually striking image, and I love the fact that this is all part of (or close to) a film set."