Reportage

First moment: Reverend Al takes a bike ride

Reverend Al Sharpton, New York, May 30, 2008. Photographed by Job Ouma.

One of the great things of having transformed First into a primarily web-driven publication is the sheer joy of avoiding pagination meetings. These meetings often meant the painful elimination of content that we liked, but didn’t have space for within the 36-page limit of First’s original printed format. Some photographs, for instance, needed to be printed as sets in order to properly communicate their context, but with this new web toy of ours, those days are happily over.

Such is the case with this series of photographs featuring the Reverend Al Sharpton pedaling around Union Square in New York City with a slew of journalists running after him. Of course, such an occasion requires more than one photograph. We have to know more. So we asked the photographer, Job Ouma, what exactly was Al doing?

Q. Please introduce yourself?

A New Yorker with a third eye. I’m also known as Gray (Grey to some) leader of the Internet revolution. I can usually be found cruising the web talking with other photographers, or surfing with vagabonds.

I don’t exactly know how I stumbled upon photography. I can think my father though I think when he gave me this old Nikon N200 film camera that had something to do with it. Although years later a crackhead stole it along with all the lenses and flash head. But I’m back. Stronger than ever.

Q. How do I know you? How come you have so much software?

Haha. That’s my other passion. I don’t think there’s anything I can’t get my hands on. That’s actually how a lot of people know me. I’ve been at this since the days before 56k. So obtaining information and software is as easy as pie. But I promised I wouldn’t talk too much about that. I don’t think Adobe or Microsoft would be too happy.

Q. Where were these pictures of Rev. Al taken?

These photos were captured at Union Square Park, New York. It was one of many protests over the Sean Bell verdict. He, along with Sean Bell’s fiancee Nicole Paultre Bell, want justice. It was definitely a sight worth seeing. A cause worth supporting. So many people came out in their numbers and I finally got a chance to meet Al.

Q. Why did he get on a bicycle?

Ha! Can you believe they doubted Al knew how to ride a bike? They even said he was out of shape. I actually think it was Sean Bell’s father who initially provoked the idea. So, Al took the challenge and got on the bike and he sped off without second thoughts. I gotta tell ya: Al looked like he was in shape because he just kept going and going and going. I couldn’t keep up!

Part of the reason why the cyclists were there were for the Critical Mass bike ride around the city. Critical Mass is a rally held on the last Friday of every month worldwide. On this particular Friday the bicyclists teamed up with Al to ride in protest of the Sean Bell verdict and demand justice.

Q. How far did he ride on the bicycle?

He went around a two block radius I believe. I couldn’t keep up. Al was determined to speed off and make everyone else catch up to him. And that he did.

Q. You don’t actually like cyclists do you?

I actually do. My older brother is a cyclist. I used to be one too until my younger brother had my bike stolen. It was an expensive Gary Fisher mountain bike. I’d like to get another one. It’s summer time. I can be the mad cyclist photographer.

Q. How long have you been into photography?

A year with a DSLR and another two years prior to that with a point and shoot. The thing about point and shoots is that they are so small. I kept losing those little things. I’ve gone through three expensive compact cameras until one day I had enough. Within the same month I went out and bought a Canon DSLR.

That was roughly a year ago. But even prior to that I always had this interest. Shame it took me this long to finally dive into it passionately.

Link Job Ouma at his new website HERE

See the video of Al riding his bike HERE

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