By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
Photographer David Guttenfelder has covered all sorts of disturbances and demonstrations overseas throughout the years for Nat Geo and the Associated Press. He’s been injured when rebels ambushed his car in Sierra Leone—one colleague riding with him was killed and another severely wounded in the attack. For years, he’s had to finagle his way past North Korea’s authoritarian government.
In the last few days, the worldwide conflict photographer is now covering a conflict in the Minnesota city where he now lives. While you would think decades of experience would give him an advantage, Guttenfelder takes pains, in a conversation with my colleague David Beard, to note his lack of story coverage from his adopted hometown and to praise the local photographers and reporters who have covered long-standing issues of housing segregation and inequities in police treatment.
However, his background does help in other ways. "It helps that I have seen pain, suffering, and rage in other places, that I can relate to what's happening and why it's happening."
He has just seen (pictured above) a burning police station, people in a flaming car, and streets crowded with people demanding the arrest of police for the death of a handcuffed black man in custody. Photographers and TV crews have been covering demonstrations by people seeking justice for slain security guard George Floyd, not just on the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but in New York, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Portland, and Albuquerque. (A police officer who knelt on the neck of the suffocating Floyd was arrested and charged with murder Friday.)
"The pain is really something," Guttenfelder says of the people he is covering. He notes that the demonstrators come from different races, ethnic groups, and walks of life. In the image above, he captures demonstrators burning a car and tossing Target store mannequins on to the blaze in a parking lot across the street from the Minneapolis 3rd precinct police station.
Floyd's death, on a public street, videotaped, his hoarse words "I can't breathe" preceding his passing, was just the latest of an African American person while under Minnesota police custody. State police have hassled other journalists trying to cover the story, arresting a CNN crew earlier Friday that was trying to do its job. (The crew was released, and the governor apologized.)
In this image from Thursday night, Guttenfelder shows the demonstrators, chanting for justice. Some of them burned the police station, nearby businesses, and cars on the street.
Guttenfelder is back on the streets this afternoon and evening for Nat Geo. We’ll be following the story in the days ahead on NatGeo.com and in our Monday newsletter.
Today in a minute
The Ellies: National Geographic took four National Magazine Awards, including overall Photography and Feature Photography, at last night’s virtual ceremony. The feature award went to photographer Lynn Johnson, who worked for nearly two decades with photo editor Kurt Mutchler on “The Immortal Corpse,” which documented the last years of a woman who donated her body for science. Nat Geo also took the Social Media category for “The Dark Truth Behind Wildlife Tourism,” and the Feature Design category for “Countdown to a New Era in Space.” Other big winners included the New York Times Magazine, with five, and Bon Appetit, with four.
Photography into painting: The painter Annesha Das was so taken with Ronny Sen’s cyclone photographs for Nat Geo from the Bay of Bengal that she transformed one of his works into a painting. Das said she was attracted to the purity and courage Sen captured from the devastation of Cyclone Amphan in eastern India and Bangladesh. It “caused so much destruction in Bengal, still humans don’t lose their faith,” Das wrote. Above, Sen’s photograph and Das’s painting. The cyclone killed at least 85 people and flattened tens of thousands of homes, many of them in the West Bengal megacity of Kolkata.
Covering the coverings: Brooklyn photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn has developed an unusual beat—documenting the most creative face masks and coverings in the city. “Even though their faces are obscured, people are still presenting their identity,” Barrayn tells Vogue. “They are representing their cultural, ethnic, and national background through their masks.”
Who was that masked man? In the case of a U.S. baptism during the age of social distancing, it was a priest, the Irish Post reports. And the face-masked clergyman used a water pistol to baptize the baby, in a photograph that has become wildly popular. The paper noted that priests in some Dublin churches have begun taking confessions in the parking lot.
Your Instagram of the day
When the white noise ended: Outside the Kuala Lumpur home of photographer Ian Teh, the morning hum of traffic was replaced by the cheery tweets and chirps of birds during the pandemic quarantine. Over time the chirps and tweets got louder, Teh tells us. “In the late afternoon, rolling thunder marks the arrival of a tropical downpour, as lightning momentarily illuminates the darkened sky and all below. Thick sheets of pelting droplets blur houses in the distance—a sight to behold. After the rain, the sweet scent of wet leaves drifts through the window, its lingering air cool against the skin.”
Related: Photographers capture a hushed world
In other news: Nat Geo passes 200 million Instagram followers. (Why not follow us now?)
The big takeaway
Suddenly away from school: Huddled in a quarantine hotel halfway around the world, taking turns off mute for remote classes. Riding a bike through a park briefly each day to break the monotony. Trying to avoid being attacked for what you look like. These are the disrupted lives of college students’ disrupted lives, as documented by Nat Geo’s Alexandra Moreo. The responses and the images of the uprooted students is striking. Pictured above, items that William Camargo found—and used—while stuck at home rather than at Claremont Graduate University. “The bean bag I am carrying,” William says, “is from my mother's current job at a Latinx grocery store in Orange County, California. I am wearing the very recognizable Nike Cortez, which roam around in many Latinx Southern California neighborhoods."
My true self: Above are two photographs by Eric Lee, of George Washington University. He says he has many fears during this pandemic, including “someone hurting me because of my identity.” Lee, noting xenophobic violence against Asian Americans in recent months, adds: ”The attacks make me want to not show my true self. After 27 years of fighting to prove that I belong in this country, I still fear being told to go back where I came from.”
Subscriber exclusive: How college students are documenting their disrupted schooling
Did a friend forward this to you?
On Mondays, Debra Adams Simmons covers the latest in history. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Victoria Jaggard on science, George Stone on travel, and Rachael Bale on animal and wildlife news.
The last glimpse
The colorful oxcart: National Geographic legend Luis Marden may be best known for his pioneering underwater photography with Jacques Cousteau or his efforts to capture NASA’s early human efforts in space, but the writer-photographer-filmmaker’s land-based work also was extraordinary, says our senior photo archivist. Sara Manco is particularly fond of this Marden photo (above), published in 1947, from Costa Rica. Manco said the photographer was known for his portraits and images with saturated color. “This photo stands out,” she says, “in its low angle and use of oxen to frame the farmer in the background.” More about Marden: He is credited with discovering the orchid species Epistephium mardenii and a sea flea and lobster parasite, Dolobrotus mardeni.
Related: Luis Marden and ‘Odysseys and Photographs’
Watch: Marden and the H.M.S. Bounty