All photographs by Wayne Lawrence Read Caption Mary Ida Barnett-Pierce stands outside Fire Station #3 on Martin Luther King Avenue. The station is one of five in Flint dispensing bottled water to residents. All photographs by Wayne Lawrence Looking the People of Flint in the Eye
Wayne Lawrence views every portrait he makes as a collaboration. His genuine interest in people is immediately apparent in the way his subjects look back at him—and at us. There is an openness in their gaze, an expression of character in their body language. “I respect every human being no matter what your walk of life,” he says. “Most of the people I meet feel like family.”
Sherry Joy stops for a portrait on her way to collect a case of bottled water—her daily allowance—from Fire Station #3.
Myra Looney, pictured with her mother, Betty Looney, says she appreciates “all the water that’s coming into Flint.” But there has to be more, she says, including more information on the health-related affects of the contaminated water on all of the city’s residents. “[T]here needs to be something in place to find out if it really has been detrimental to our health,” she says.
Nisa Lanoue, a mother of two, says many people are forced by their circumstances to use the contaminated water. “There’s people out here that feed their kids formula,” she says. “They’re feeding their babies and stuff with this water. They have no choice because they don’t have a car to get out and go get the free water that’s being given. They don’t have the money to afford it, and these kids are getting sick.”
Working with friends and members of his production company, Team 810, community activist and entrepreneur Yusuf Bauswell has been delivering cases of water to the elderly, handicapped, and others unable to personally collect water from distribution centers. Born and raised in Flint, Bauswell is hoping his actions will help him to transcend a troubled youth. “It’s a lot of poverty and a lot of crime here and … when I was younger and growing up, I was a part of it,” he says. But now, Bauswell says, “my motivation is to right all my wrongs. It’s to do as much good as I can before I die.”
Mary Ida Barnett-Pierce stands outside Fire Station #3 on Martin Luther King Avenue. The station is one of five in Flint dispensing bottled water to residents.
“The day of judgement for the oppressor will be far worse than the day of oppression is for the oppressed,” says Chris Millard, a Flint resident who was on his way to collect a case of bottled water at Fire Station #3.
Clint Williams and a few of his friends—all raised at River Park Apartments in Flint—helped distribute free cases of bottled water to community residents.
For more on Lawrence and his unique portraiture style, including his photographs in the May 2015 magazine story “Taking Back Detroit,” watch this video on Proof.