Ferocity: The Story of Her
It's been a while since I've posted anything. The holidays kept me busy, and so far this month I've been trying to get myself oriented for the new year--cleaning out my office so I can make better use of it, organizing my gear, stuff like that. But I wanted to keep in the habit of posting at least somewhat regularly, so I dug through my files and found this.
This is my sister. Throughout the course of my photographic career she has been my go-to model, dating all the way back to my first at-home jerry-rigged photo studio in eighth grade. Whenever I wanted to try out some new technique or simply had itchy shutter finger, she'd make herself available–sometimes eagerly, sometimes reluctantly at my request.
It was early fall of 2015 and this was one of those days in the middle where I'd asked and she'd sort of shrugged and said okay. There isn't necessarily anything particularly special about the photo itself; the composition is adequate, the lighting as well, focus is mediocre, and the background has only the barest complementary value. From a critical perspective it's mostly uninteresting.
That is, except for her–and her jacket.
Now, something you should know about my sister: she is fierce, she is willful, and she is kind. She always has been, and perhaps that is what I've loved so much about using her as a subject over the years.
I don't actually have very many photos of her in this jacket, and this is likely one of the best I do have. It was her favorite. We picked it up on a summer shopping spree at the thrift store and it sort of became a constant around the house. If you saw her passing through the kitchen on her way to work or the store, it was the one she was always wearing.
She wore it when she went to counter-protest the Nazi rally at the California state Capitol as well; and it was there that she let it go.
Most know about that rally in June 2016–it made national and international headlines. It was violent and it was horrifying; an omen of what was to come. Seven were stabbed by Nazi and white nationalist demonstrators, suffering far more than the trauma of their physical wounds.
And she was there, wearing that jacket as she watched a man get stabbed in the shoulder, eyes going wide as pain and shock and unreality struck him. Once the aggressor had moved on, he was swarmed by other counter-protesters, including my sister, who tried to assess the situation and help the man who was stumbling and tripping over himself, face white as blood pooled from his wound and soaked his clothes.
My sister is a caregiver. In the two years leading up to this moment she'd been the full-time nanny to an eight year old girl in town. She is first-aid trained and certified, as any good caregiver should be, and so when the moment came she ripped off that jacket without a moment's hesitation and used it to apply pressure to the man's shoulder as he collapsed to the ground, white and trembling and still as wide-eyed as when he watched that switchblade embed itself in his body. It took some time before EMT's were able to reach him, and when they carted him off on a gurney to a waiting ambulance, her jacket went with him, nearly soaked through.
I was told all of this later that evening over lemonade when she returned home. She, myself, and my partner sat in the backyard soaking up the early-summer heat as she explained, in response to our query, why she had a sunburn on her bared shoulders when she left for the counter-demonstration with a light jacket for the very purpose of preventing such a thing.
When I came across this photo a few years later, though hardly my best work or my best photo of her, I knew it was one I needed to share, along with its story.
I sometimes find myself in awe of her strength and moral conviction. Such action as I described above is no easy feat, and does not come without cost. Yet amidst the horrors that consume our daily reality, such strength is desperately needed to push back against the encroaching darkness. When I look at photos like this one, I am reminded of what that kind of strength can look like.