Photographer Ézé Amos discussed his photo series “The Story of Us” with Andrea Douglas, director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, and community members from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday night at an event organized by Charlottesville Democrats in Charlottesville’s Downtown Library.
Amos originally trained in the sciences at a University of Ibadan in Nigeria, and he emigrated to Charlottesville in 2008. He describes his journey into photography as “serendipitous,” and recounted walking into a library and selecting a book at random about photography.
The first camera Amos ever picked up was a black-and-white film camera — the first roll of film was “perfect,” which Amos said 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 never want to miss a moment,” Amos said.
Amos’ previous work in Charlottesville include capturing a series of images documenting people on the Downtown Mall called “Cville People Everyday,” as well as his “Cville Porch Portraits” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am a people photographer,” Amos said. “What draws me to photography is telling stories — it’s humans.”
In early sets of portraits downtown, Amos realized that his subjects were mainly white people — the Black individuals he did photograph, he noticed, were either homeless or panhandling. The observation sparked his interest in the larger sociological issues his work captures.
Amos also discussed how his passion and personal subjectivity shine through in his photographs. The way he approaches assignments, he said, is different from his colleagues.
“The truth of it is, I’m not neutral,” Amos said. “What affects you comes true in your photos — whether you like it or not.”
Amos said he wanted to “put a human face” to Charlottesville with the “The Story of Us,” trying to move away from a public perception of Charlottesville as just a hashtag or caricature after the events of August 11 and 12.
“The Story of Us” features 36 photos taken Aug. 11 and 12 and the periods before and after, from a protest on the one-year anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally to a photo taken July 8 when the Ku Klux Klan hosted a rally in Charlottesville.
On each installation, viewers can scan a QR code linking to a 3-minute recording of the person featured in the photo describing that moment at length in their own words in their own voices. Amos reviewed a few of the photos during the event.
“I think what we need right now is for us to see ourselves in the type of story we want to see,” Amos said.
Amos hopes the experience inspires viewers to share their stories of what happened on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017.
“Everybody has a different take on what you’ve heard before,” Amos said. “Listen to all of them.”
More of Amos’ photographs are on display at JSAAHC in an exhibition titled “Bearing Witness” — the installation also explores his life as a photographer and artist.
Amos will lead a guided tour of the installation Saturday at 11 a.m., beginning at the water fountain at 2nd St. It will last for about an hour.