1987 March on Washington
Last week I wrote asking questions about the upcoming March on Washington, which seems destined to happen even though many are unclear if it is the right time or the right action to produce results. There are good reasons to go to Washington and march, and there are good reasons to put one’s time, energy, talent, and resources to use in other ways.
All of this got me thinking about my first March on Washington, which was 1987, and I decided to look for a series of photographs I had printed and exhibited in the months following that event. I had left my job as a teacher enrolling in a photography program just a few months before the Â march, and it was that school program, which prompted me to go to Washington. I had been active in the Columbus activist community a number of years earlier, but had been away from it for a while. But I read a short article in the Advocate, about the Names Project Quilt, which was to be displayed for the very first time during the March weekend. One of my assignments for school, was to be a multi-projector slide show (a dinosaur type of production that died when digital images and video projectors became standard conference resources.) and I had images in my mind of how pictures of the quilt and quilt panels would work for my slide show. Additionally, the local news weekly, In Pittsburgh, was going to print a story by a local writer about the March, and I was asked to capture photos for the article. It was perhaps one of my very first free-lance photography jobs!
In Pittsburgh did use some of my photos, as did the local gay paper, Out Magazine, and towards the end of that first semester of my classes, I hosted my 2nd exhibit of photographs. The first had been a series of older images hung in a local gay restaurant. Mostly pretty decorative images, there was nothing that really held the work together as a body of work, but it was a chance to show my work and hopefully sell a few photographs. But this exhibit of the March pictures was more of a real exhibition! This would be a series of documentary style work. And not only would they be images I made, but printed myself. So I selected a number of images, cut mats, and attached them to the wall of my dining room and living room for a reception.
I have kept those matted prints all these year, although in less-than stellar archiving conditions. After some of the posts and comments, I went to dig out the images, and since then, I’ve been working on putting together a photo gallery for the web. Initially I thought I would simply scan in the prints of the images that were matted, but the print quality wasn’t all that great to begin with, and 20 years of poor treatment wasn’t helping. So, I pulled out the negatives and have been busy scanning them into the computer ever since.
More than the physical act of scanning, this has caused me to really think deeper about marches in general, the potential for the upcoming march, and remembering more details of my 1987 experience. That is the fun part, remembering and pondering. Unfortunately, the physical part is rough. Prior to this schooling, I shot nothing but chrome film, and have never used Black and White film at all.So not only was I learning a new type of photography, but using tools like film I self-processed and printed. Needless to say, only a few months into the program, I was still not too good with these new tools.
I expect to finish all of my scanning this weekend, and then begin to select images and put together some sort of slideshow or video or something, but I thought I’d post this image as a start.