Saturday, November 19, 2011

2011-11-19 "Occupy: Robert Schultze's portraits of protest; Photographer captures images, stories of Occupy demonstrators" by Sara Hayden from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Growing up, Robert Schultze didn't always imagine he'd become a photographer. His father wanted him to pursue medicine, but Schultze dreamed of writing, acting and archaeology. To this day, he still thinks dinosaurs are cool, but he has since given up aspirations of being Indiana Jones in favor of taking photographs in the Bay Area.
 The 24-year-old, who is from a Wisconsin town of fewer than 1,000 people, has attracted quite a crowd these past few weeks. Some of them have been spectators, but more than 250 are people from the Occupy movement who have agreed to pose for him in a series of black-and-white portraits. Some use their picket signs, guitars or dogs as props, but many stand solo.
These images are part of his "Occupy California: Portraits of the 99%" online project. Schultze's goal is to capture as many portraits of Occupy movement participants as possible. He usually shoots about 40 to 60 subjects per day.
"Everybody has a story," says Schultze, who moved to San Francisco in 2008. "I like learning about someone visually. You can talk to people, too, but you learn cues from them from the body language."
Schultze has been to the San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Santa Rosa and San Jose Occupy sites. Every time he moves, he contacts the camp's media people for approval to set up a mini photo studio, lugs hundreds of pounds of equipment to the site, tracks down potential subjects to get releases signed, and shoots.
Sometimes the project can be a tough sell. Most who were photographed requested anonymity. People were especially aloof at Occupy Oakland. After half a day of being unable to persuade anyone to talk to him, Schultze changed his game by letting the photos he had already taken speak for themselves.
Once they saw all the portraits loaded on his tablet computer, people felt comfortable that his shoots were more formal than what most photographers had attempted. Most of the photos, taken against a simple backdrop, are featured on his blog or the Occupy websites, but they've also been cropping up on the participants' personal profiles.

Making deep connections -
Once people agree to work with him, Schultze shoots five to six frames for each person. The stint is short, but the connection is deep. In those frames, the model looks directly at him and Schultze tries to visually frame his or her whole story. Maxina Ventura, an Occupy Berkeley demonstrator, wanted to have a family portrait taken alongside her three children.
"It brings it to the point of looking at what and who people are seeing," Ventura said. "We are a family out here, not homeless, but we want to have a voice here. ... It's about exposing this disparity."
After Schultze has edited the best takes, he publishes them on his social media sites, and the next day, the cycle starts again. An editorial photographer by trade, Schultze has never done a project like this on such a large scale.
"This project just came to me really organically and quickly," he says, so he's had to be creative in finding the means to make it happen. Schultze intends for the portraits to be used however the participants need.
 Schultze asks for payment only if someone chooses to publish the photos, so he can fund his journey to other Occupy sites. He originally got started by using IndieGoGo, a website that lets people generate funds from donors to pursue their passions. Friends and family have also given him money to buy BART tickets and cover other travel costs. So far, he's raised about $300, which will help him go to San Diego next month.
Occupy California has become Schultze's day job for the time being, though he doesn't necessarily take sides over the issues represented by the movement. "I don't think I could do as good a job if I was biased," he says.

Accommodating individuals -
Once, Schultze invited a boy sitting next to the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco to his mobile photo studio to get his picture taken, but the boy said he couldn't move because of a cardiac problem he had experienced the night before, a side effect of cancer. At the end of the day, Schultze went to bring the backdrop to him, but the boy was gone.
The experience "really did make me want to do (this project), just in a different way than working with people who are healthy or fine or enthusiastic, because most of them have been," Schultze says. "But to see someone weaker - physically - to be there also for this, that kind of stood out to me."

"Occupy California: Portraits of the 99%" by Robert Schultze
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Photographer Robert Schultze, who shoots 40 to 60 subjects a day, took these portraits of Occupy demonstrators. "This project just came to me really organically and quickly," he says.
A portrait of an Occupy protester at 200 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, California on 10/16/11

A portrait of an Occupy protester at 101 Market St in San Francisco CA on 10/08/11

A portrait of an Occupy protester at 100 Santa Rosa Ave in Santa Rosa CA on 10/15/11

Other participants from various Occupy gatherings:



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