Celebrating Anna Burton.
I stumbled upon Anna Burton's work during a late night insta scroll back in April and I immediately fell in love with her feed. During lock down Anna, like many photographers, had started experimenting with zoom shoots, and it was these images that initially drew me in. Anna's feed felt fresh. She was showcasing so many different people, all in beautiful ways. Be it a cyber shoot, a pre-quarantine location set, or a cool edit, I read Anna's feed as a celebration of people.
We arranged a shoot of our own for early May. In the early stages of lock down location hunting was easy: I just sent Anna a couple pictures of my house and she picked out her favourite 'backdrops'. My little office in the attic, even though only mid-way through its renovation, seemed the best fit for the shoot we both had in mind. I picked out a few outfits based on the colours of the room and the little discussion of styles we shared an interest in, and soon enough, shoot day was here.
After a wifi-wobble or two we began shooting and made sure to take full advantage of the natural light streaming in, playing and posing in the diamond patterned shadows being created by the old lead lined windows. Of course as we worked, we chatted about Covid, and lock down, and all things relevant back in early May. It was an easy and flowing conversation. And as we nattered so freely, Anna shot, and I posed away, it didn't take long to realise why Anna's feed felt like a celebration. Anna is a celebrator; a cheer leader of people.
Usually I would share a mood board in the build up to the results of our collaboration. But this was a shoot I didn't prepare for as I do most others and to be frank, I think the pictures speak for themselves:
I came away from our shoot feeling empowered; Anna's praise and kindness meant more than I could say at the time. Lock down still felt new, unease and unrest were building, and the pandemic was really showing its brutality.
But so was humanity.
Days after our shoot, the world paused, as the words "I can't breathe" we're uttered once again and became part of a Global Movement. I won't claim the phrase as part of history, as three months on, the work of the Black Lives Matter Campaign is still just as important, as fuelled, and as needed as it was during that collective silence. The words of George Floyd, and of Eric Garner before him, will become historic because they are making history, but they are not yet part of our past.
There has been much debate online as to what we can do to continue the fight for racial equality outside of rallies and marches (coverage of which may have dwindled, but the number of which have continued steadily), because some have unfortunately used their voice as part of a moment rather than a movement. Using your voice in continued solidarity should be the norm. There are whole host of important things that we can do to insure that the life and words of George Floyd, and countless other Black people, are not forgotten.
Speaking as a white cis womxn, it is my duty as an ally to not only stand with the Black community in solidarity in person and on social media (because a platform of any kind, big or small, makes a difference), it is also important that I continue my education into the realities of racial disparity and take that knowledge into my day to day life. There are countless resources available, a few of which I will link below. These sources may not cover everything, but they are a great starting point for conversation and education.
With both education and conversation in mind, I now turn back to Anna, Photographer, BLM Campaigner, and Celebrator of People. The work we did together was the last series of Facetime shoots Anna released before turning her attention, and her Instagram feed, to the Black Lives Matter movement. First releasing powerful edits of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Then using more images from cyber shoots to share quotes from activists, links to petitions and information about the progress of the BLM campaign in each caption.
Then, on July 14th, Anna's greatest work to date was shared with the world. A Black Lives Matter campaign that would comprise of 65 interviews with accompanying images, each as powerful as the last, each a celebration of the individuals' strength, resilience and beauty. One set being released every day for 65 days.
This "campaign is purely to start conversation with people; to understand that black people continue to struggle on a regular basis with forms of racism and it [isn't] just a US problem. These are people I know from different walks of life, but they all have one thing in common, and that is [that] at some point in their lives they have been racially abused" - Anna Burton, July 2020.
Through her work Anna began once again celebrating people, making them comfortable enough to talk about the uncomfortable, and I would imagine, leaving them more empowered than she found them. The work that Anna Burton has created is as impactful as it is haunting. In fact maybe it is as impactful, because it is so haunting, so touching, and deeply human.
I refuse to do the work a disservice by describing it for you here, instead I encourage you to head to Anna's feed and give your time to her creation instead. Her work is deserving of as big an audience as we can give it. And our education and further development of the BLM relies on a better discourse where race and inequalities are concerned.
For both my shoot with Anna, and the BLM campaign, she screenshot FaceTime conversations rather than using a camera. And her discussions were recorded on an iPad, then every day she wrote out the dialogue, edited pictures and put them together in Photoshop. A few people couldn’t make a FaceTime call so Anna asked them to take similarly shot photos themselves.
Links and resources: