Photographer Ézé Amos discussed his photo series, The Story of Us, with Andrea Douglas, director of the Jefferson School’s African American Heritage Center, and community members from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday night at an event hosted by Charlottesville Democrats at the Downtown Library of Charlottesville.
Amos originally completed a science degree at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and immigrated to Charlottesville in 2008. He describes his journey into photography as “accidental” and recounts how he walked into a library and picked a book about photography at random.
The first camera Amos ever picked up was a black-and-white film camera – the first roll of film was “perfect,” which Amos says was pure luck. But those photos, he said, gave him the encouragement he needed to pursue the art of photography.
“Because of the love I have for this art, I don’t want to miss a moment,” said Amos.
Amos’ earlier work in Charlottesville includes taking a series of images depicting people in the Downtown Mall entitled “Cville people every day‘ as well as his ‘Cville Porch Portraits‘ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m a people photographer,” Amos said. “What I love about photography is storytelling – it’s people.”
In early series of portraits in the inner city, Amos realized that his subjects were predominantly white—the black people he photographed were, he noted, either homeless or beggars. The observation sparked his interest in the larger sociological issues his work captures.
Amos also spoke about how his passion and personal subjectivity shine through in his photographs. The way he approaches tasks is different from his colleagues.
“The truth is I’m not neutral,” Amos said. “What touches you comes true in your photos – whether you like it or not.”
Amos said he wanted to “put a human face” on Charlottesville with The Story of Us and try to move away from a public perception of Charlottesville as just a hashtag or cartoon following the events of August 11 and 12.
The Story of Us features 36 photos taken on August 11, 12, before and after, of a protest against the anniversary anniversary the “unity of rights” rally to a photo taken on July 8 when the Ku Klux Klan was hosting one rally in Charlottesville.
On each installation, viewers can scan a QR code that links to a 3-minute recording of the person in the photo describing that moment in detail in their own words and voice. Amos reviewed some of the photos during the event.
“I think what we need now is that we see ourselves in the kind of story that we want to see,” Amos said.
Amos hopes the experience will inspire viewers to share their stories about what happened on August 11 and 12, 2017.
“Everyone has a different take on what you’ve heard before,” Amos said. “Listen to everyone.”
Other photographs by Amos can be seen at the JSAAHC in an exhibition entitled Bearing Witness – the installation also explores his life as a photographer and artist.
Amos will lead a tour of the installation Saturday at 11 a.m., starting at the water fountain on 2nd St. It will last approximately one hour.