To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Photobook reflects on collective power of Women’s March

“We Who March,” a book of photos from the 2017 Women’s March shot by 30 photographers—28 of which were women—is a “book for the community, by the community and of the community,” according to the book’s creator Ellen Feldman.

The self-published book, which features photos shot primarily at marches in Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston and Chicago, sought to present a sense of community, diversity and collective strength between the activists who took to the streets on Jan. 21, 2017, according to Feldman.

The Jan. 21 Women’s March was one of the largest single-day demonstrations in recorded U.S. history, involving between three to five million participants, according to The Washington Post. Hundreds of marches were held throughout the country with about 68 percent of marches including less than 1,000 participants. Sister marches were also held on the same day throughout the world.

“I wanted the book to present a sense of community and solidarity and unity because that’s what we all felt there, no matter where we were marching in this country or all around the world,” Feldman said in a discussion about the book on Tuesday night.

Feldman was introduced by Susan Reverby, a professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Wellesley College, who also wrote the introduction for “We Who March.” In introducing Feldman to an audience of about 20—several of whom were also photographers who had contributed to the book—Reverby described the Women’s March as a reaction to the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The Women’s March “spread through social media and anger, anger that Hillary had lost by so little to a man with no character and what it would mean to have Trump as president—although I think then we had only a glimmer of how horrific it was going to be,” Reverby said.

In addition to presenting about 150 photographs, the book includes about 20 quotes from the activists captured in its images. Feldman, who collected the quotes while also shooting her own photographs to be included in the book, described the process she used to obtain the quotes from activists at the march in Washington, D.C.

Rather than ask for quotes from demonstrators on the spot, Feldman would take note when she thought she took a particularly powerful photo and ask the subject of the photo to write their email on an index card. She would later email these people for quotes, she said.

“I wanted [quotes] where they could be thoughtful, ruminate on what had happened, look at it in hindsight and come up with a really strong statement,” she said.

Feldman also discussed the thought process which went into organizing the book and presenting the march through photos sorted into seven chapters.

“I wanted to start big,” Feldman said of her first chapter, which focuses on the “sheer numbers and quantities of people who are marching.” The first chapter, which she titled “We are Legion,” presents several wide shots of marchers filling the streets of cities such as Boston, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

The second chapter, titled “We Can’t Believe We’re Still Marching,” focuses on people who Feldman described as “my cohorts—second wave feminists” who participated in demonstrations throughout the ’60s and ’70s only to continue advocating for women through the Women’s March in 2017. The chapter includes fewer wide shots, focusing more on individuals, particularly those who are old enough to have participated in the women’s movements of the 20th century.

The seventh chapter, according to Feldman, was about “the children who need to fight on once we’re gone.” Whereas the second chapter focused on the older generation of marchers, the final chapter focused on the younger generation. One photo from this chapter depicted a young girl wearing a pink “pussy” hat and holding a sign that said “Nasty Women in Training,” a reference to a comment made by then-candidate Trump about Clinton during a presidential debate.

The title of the seventh chapter, “You See a Girl, I See the Future,” is a quote from a sign held by a young girl in the final photograph of the book.

Another section included in the book, though not a chapter, was described by Feldman as the “rupture.” This “section,” which is scattered throughout the book, includes photos consisting of “really strong anti-Trump signs and a lot of anger on the faces of people.” Photos which are part of this “rupture” are presented with a black border to “make sure that we thought of these as different than everything else.”

A portfolio of several images included in the book and a full list of contributing photographers can be found at wewhomarch.org.

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