Monday, September 08, 2008

Once Behind Bars, Now Behind the Lens, With His Freedom At Risk

New York Post photographer Jason Nicholas snapped a photo of me just before his own camera was blown apart by a police riot weapon and then was himself arrested and taken into police custody on Labor Day 2008.

I'm still waiting to receive the picture he has of me laying on the ground face down after getting baton-ed and slammed by Minneapolis police, but in the meantime I found an New York Times article about the man. In 1990 he was charged with manslaughter for shooting somebody in the South Bronx. After serving 13 years in prison he then got a bachelor's degree and has gotten into photojournalism. But he doesn't shoot shotguns anymore, just pictures.

Still, he is constantly getting flak from the authorities in his city of New York, just like the rest of us.

...Three days after the arrest in Chelsea, Mr. Nicholas was arrested for trespassing and given a desk appearance ticket after being on the roof of a building in the Bronx where he was photographing officers responding to an episode in which plainclothes transit officers shot and killed a man who had attacked them on a subway platform at 176th Street.

When I spoke with Jason in one of the makeshift IMC apartment lofts in St. Paul, MN his attention to detail and insight drew me into his work. I watched as he used lighting techniques to draw out the sharpness of his photos. He had hundreds of them from that day. He told me that if you ask a riot cop if you can stand next to them it decreases your chances of being arrested in sticky situations. Well, even with that tactic he was eventually thrown down and lumped in right next to me. But he has wiser words:

“It is a privilege to photograph this city,” he told the New York Times reporter. “If Homer were alive today recording the deeds of men, he’d be a photojournalist.”

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