The Art of Protest

Tim Owen has been taking pictures for a very long time. Since the ‘80s, in fact – and he’s always made a point of paying particular attention (and plenty of camera time) to people or scenes with a message of peace to share.

Originally, it was musicians that he focused on the most. Reggae and African folk music were his standard, but soon, his love for their message lead him to ever-wider outlets of the same, from contemporary rock and roll to anti-exploitation and anti-war protests. If there was a compelling movement for peace and social justice, chances were pretty good that Tim was there recording it.

When the contested elections in 2001 happened, Tim's work really picked up. When the tragedies of September 11th happened, bringing with them tidings of war, Tim his workload increased even more. When Bush, Jr. administration started considering a war with Iraq, his already high level of work practically started growing exponentially.

“As a photographer, I wanted to record these images because of the number of pre-war protests,” Tim explains,“There were actually record numbers [at] protests. The war hadn't even started yet, and there were 40,00 people out in the streets on any given protest.”

After the Iraq War started, though, the story that Tim covered changed dramatically. The number of protests dropped steadily, and when they did happen, they were much smaller, much more subdued. Massive gatherings became a few dedicated activists standing on busy street corners. People went from hitting the streets en mass to coming to the streets in a trickle, if they came at all.

The reason behind the dramatic downturn in activity? According to Tim, it was largely the fault of dirty politics.

“Bush was not elected, basically – and so there was already a lot protests against the process of him even being President,” he explains, “and for these decisions to go ahead around the war after 9/11... I think a lot of people kinda just threw in the towel.”

With the impending end of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars within a year, his photography opportunities might continue to decline even further. It doesn't mean that Tim is done with photographing protests when the chance arises, however - though he does concede that he many not have any such chances anytime soon.

“If there are protests to document, I'll be there... [but] nothing much happening at this point.”

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lancespring says ... on Sunday, Nov 14 at 2:42 PM

“nothing much happening at this point.” That is because Obama is now President. If a Republican was in office, the protests would have continued. Just shows that the protesters were really just Democratic partisans, and not truly against war.

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