Photography as Resistance
David Moriya is a photojournalist, activist, music photographer, and founder of Rogue Photo, a platform supporting social movement photography. Over the past two years, he has attended more than 50 protests and actions, including the 10-day March Against White Supremacy from Charlottesville to Washington D.C. We spoke with him about his experience, photography as a tool for resistance, and his role as an Artist-in-Residence at GroundShift.
How did you get started as a photographer?
After studying film production in California, I move out to New York in 2015. Inspired by photographers before me (Bill Cunningham Jr., Vivian Myer), I began my street photography as I commuted to my day job as a video editor, focusing on candids and lighting with what situation I was given. When my photos were seen by those I worked with, I began photography full time when they offered me a job.
What drew you to shooting protests and actions?
After the Women’s March of 2017, I felt the need to be at my local protest and be a body while also reporting on the ever evolving storm that swept through the first year. After a few weeks of shooting two to three protests a week, I saw an opportunity to build a larger community and create change in the world of photography. This idea gave a platform to Rogue Photo.
Ever been in difficult or scary situations?
I'm thankful that there has not been many dangerous encounters, but there were a few where I had to be more alert in my surroundings. For example, while we marched through the reddest counties of Virginia, we received death threats in an open carry state, and that was just the few I heard about.
Is there a history of this kind of photography work? How do you see photography fitting into social action?
There is a long hxstory of protest and documentary photojournalism since the Crimean War in the 1850s. More notable moments in political photography are Riboud’s photo of Jan Kasmir as she holds a flower up to a line of the American National Guard outside the pentagon during a 1967 protest against the Vietnam War and Franklin’s ‘The Tank Man’ in Tiananmen Square, China (1989).
The documentation of social action has the ability to impact the world. Whether it's photography or videography, its importance in the hxstory of the world may tell a thousand words, but it launches a million conversations. In these spaces, a photographer often has the freedom to be much closer and somewhat invincible to the dangers that present themselves. I’ve often been past police barriers and up close to angered protesters, but that comes with fearless courage and experience. A camera is not an immediate threat of physical harm, but it has the power to evoke emotions and empower leaders to change the world.
Tell us a little about Rogue Photo. What's it working to achieve?
Rogue Photo is a nonprofit freelance agency that connects other nonprofits and organizations with local freelancers that are aligned with similar values. With the growing amount of freelancers, and never ending need for social change, nonprofits need content and young freelancers need assignments to continue their growth in their chosen field. With Rogue Photo, nonprofits benefit by connecting with their local artists and freelancers gain the experience of working in a professional environment while continuing to hone their craft.
As Rogue Photo becomes stronger and more connected with the social justice community, a world wide expansion is possible. Art is a universal language and there are organizations in every state and country that could benefit from a local artist who would like to be apart of the change. Currently, after only a year, Rogue Photo has Photographers in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Our goal is to educate photographers, and other content makers, on how to quit their day-job and become full time freelance artists while giving back to their community.
What will you be doing at GroundShift?
There will also be an exhibition of my work. I'll also be holding an introduction to photography and its importance in activism. And of course I'll be taking photos throughout the weekend!
Want to get involved in GroundShift? We hope so! Sliding scale tickets are available here.
This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.