Photo Essay – Rick Alarcon

Protest Series

Not officially being French, I try to remain an observer of the lives in my immediate Parisian orbit. Besides witnessing the ins and outs of the horrific French bureaucratic system, the daily strolls of over-perfumed older women, the long-legged fashionistas, and the museums full of both contemporary and classical art, I have been an eyewitness to yet another typical French institution: the protest.

As we speak, those in the milk industry are dumping hundreds of gallons of milk in French fields in protest to rising costs, a controversial vote is due at the end of this week as to the privatization of postal service, students begin their yearly rounds of boycotts and sit-ins, and perhaps more internationally publicized, the covering of Islamic women with burqas or hajib has become a hotly contest topic within the French republic. Each one of these topics has brought the country’s temperament to the boiling point and forced the people onto the streets, with signs held high and protest slogans ringing through everyone’s ears.

With my photography, I hope to cover the culture surrounding these events and individuals. I aim to not take a side with their causes, but to present their needs to have their voices heard, regardless of the standpoint they may take on a particular issue. The conviction for such causes can be so great sometimes that they can become hateful and antagonistic, thus demonstrating that at all levels, we must learn to reach compromise.

The meeting of the stoic and opinionated protest culture with everyday society can sometimes lead to moments of light-hearted, sarcastic, and ironic circumstances. Though not to take precedence from their causes, these moments can sometimes help to amplify their importance. My photography does not aim to make people chuckle, however, but to highlight society’s programming to not attribute the proper attention that may be necessary for such causes, and perhaps can be indicative of our inability to deal with the serious issues that surround us. But I will be the first one to admit that some of these photos put a sarcastic smile on my face.

I present to you a series of photos of my work dealing with protest culture. For presentation’s sake, I show you the photos in black and white form at the same dimensions so as to neutralize any one photo holding sway over the others. I have also included work outside of France so as to illustrate that this is not a uniquely French aspect, but one in which we are all participants. What is important to me, and perhaps more important to the causes and people illustrated by my work, is the fact that the right to assembly is not only an inalienable human right, but that it is also a right that needs to be examined in detail.

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