Ruddy Roye (Jamaican, b. 1969) is a Brooklyn-based photographer whose images speak to the human condition and the injustices he witnesses daily. Yet his documentation of chronic homelessness and events such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the activism of the Black Lives Matter movement do not aim to capture misery, but to convey resilience and compassion.
Roye is a member of Kamoinge, an African-American photographers’ collective. He was featured in the documentary “Through a Lens Darkly,” and a recipient of an Open Society Katrina Media Fellowship (2006). He was named one of Complex’s “50 Greatest Street Photographers Right Now” (2014) and TIME’s Instagram Photographer of 2016. His Instagram account (@ruddyroye) engages over a quarter million followers. The Open Society Moving Walls grant will support the continuation of the When Living Is a Protest project.
Sixty years ago, marching was considered an act of protest.
I have been able to grow up on the backs, sweat, and blood of those who made strides and steps in the direction that enabled me to pursue something other than picking cotton and chopping sugar cane.
However, this life is not without its scars—memories and vestiges of the toll “the struggle” has had on a race of people. Starting in 2015, I began walking the streets of New York City, through Brooklyn and Manhattan, and then later in other American cities and towns, reading the tales of those for whom the daily act of living is a testimony of this ongoing struggle.
When Living Is a Protest is my attempt to show a glimpse into what it means to live in “the struggle.” The following quotes by Albert Camus helped me to discover the linchpin for this series: “When the soul has suffered, it develops a taste for misfortune” and “The only way to deal with an un-free world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
From photographing everyday life in places like Newark, New Jersey, Memphis, Tennessee, and Jackson, Mississippi, to documenting the tumultuous protests from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, I show the faces of Black Americans whose lives are spent living in protest, for whom the very act of living is a form of resistance.
—Ruddy Roye, October 2017