Taking It to the Streets

Sasha Bezzubov for TIME
Sasha Bezzubov for TIME
A protester leads an Occupy Wall Street general assembly at Zuccotti Park in New York City. October 7, 2011.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has, at times, been chaotic. During an Oct. 1 march across the Brooklyn Bridge, more than 700 people were arrested. On Oct. 15, when protesters took over Times Square, two policeman were injured as the NYPD had to use horses to bash barricades back into place when protesters tried to push through them. I was ever so skeptical when I first met photographer Sasha Bezzubov. I had seen his extraordinary work, so I didn’t doubt his ability for a second, but I knew how chaotic the protests could become.

In my short career as a working journalist, I’ve had the pleasure of working mostly with combat photographers like Kadir van Lohuizen and Erin Trieb. Combat photographers move quickly—shooting, ducking, shifting and shooting again. Somehow they make sense of chaos, and great beauty develops out of their constant motion.

Sasha shoots on film from a tripod, and I knew that he would take great photos, but I knew it would involve some crowd control. Sasha, known for his portrait typologies of travelers and adventurers, shot some extraordinary portraits in his two days at Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street’s base camp. His subjects were a perfect anthropological study of the people who populate the movement: the old and the young, the employed and the searching, the curious and the erudite. As the sun began to set on the first day, Sasha ran out from the crowd and said he had seen a woman holding a bird. He asked me to see if we could take her portrait. She had the most piercing eyes, and I knew Sasha would take an excellent photograph. It turns out that the woman was the one seen on YouTube by more than a million people falling screaming to her knees, after a police commander sprayed pepper in her face. We had been writing about her for a week and only then found out who she was.

Sasha Bezzubov for TIME

Kaylee Dedrick, activist. October 7, 2011

That was one of the treasures to come out of working with Sasha. The rest are shown here. And for the record, the bird survived and, a few days later, flew away.

Sasha Bezzubov is a Brooklyn based photographer. Facts on the Ground, an exhibition by Bezzubov and his collaborator Jessica Sucher is on view at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York through October 22. More of his work can be seen here.

Nate Rawlings is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @naterawlings. Continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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