“Love” by Brian Whitmore [Image Description: In this black and white photo, two young men dressed in summer clothes, stand in the middle of the street, kissing. They look happy. In the background, a crowd of onlookers stand behind a metal barricade. In front of the barricade, still in the background, a female police officer looks on.]
Thoughts on this photo, as written by Brian Whitmore:
When I re-posted an old photo called “Love” on my Facebook during Toronto Pride 2018 it was a bit of a surprise that Whitney, an old high school colleague and creator of this very website, asked if she could publish the photo (along with a written piece by me to accompany it). I asked what her I should write about and she said “write about the day you took the photo, what you felt, what you wanted to communicate through the photo…”
To be honest the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade, where I took “Love”, was a long time ago and my memory could be better, but there are some things I can tell you. The day was sunny. It was hot. It was taken in downtown Toronto at the Yonge and Dundas intersection. That was the first summer that I had my brand-new Sony a6000 camera and I looked for any opportunity to use it to document what I saw in the city from my (hopefully unique) perspective. I took many photos during 2016 Toronto Pride Parade, but I can tell you “Love” stood out to me back then, and it takes on even more meaning for me today.
For one thing, if I remember correctly, this photo was taken just prior to Black Lives Matter’s attention-grabbing sit-in protest during the parade, stopping the party for about 30 minutes. I remember standing in my prime photography spot at the end of the parade route wondering what the hold-up was and finding out through Twitter what was happening. As a straight black man, I was conflicted about whether the sit-in protest was “the right thing to do”. Why would black and visibly racialized minorities protest the Pride Parade? Would they not be natural allies with the LGTBQ community, especially since there are many that identify as both black and gay? Well, I’ve heard or read different perspectives on that topic that tells me that things are not always so black or white (pardon the pun). If anything, the sit-in should teach everyone that one discriminated group’s struggle for equality and love should be everyone’s struggle for those same things. We should not discriminate based on our differences but love each other because of them.
The second thing that stands out to me about “Love” is the smiling police officer in the background looking at the special moment happening before her. Ironically enough, the police have not marched in the Toronto Pride Parade since. It was important to me to get the police officer in the shot to show “how far we’ve come” since the days of explicit discrimination of not just LGTBQ persons but also of other racialized minorities. Well, now when I look at this photo I ask if what I saw in this shot is actually true. Have we as a 21st century society moved past our bigoted past, ready to enter a new post-modern world of rainbows and chocolate? Ask POTUS, ask black victims of unwarranted police violence, ask people living in the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood when they don’t hear from a friend for several days. Hell, ask me when I’m walking home at night and I feel compelled to give the white woman ahead of me at least 3 second notice from seven feet back that I’m behind her and that I will be passing her on the left side of the sidewalk. What I saw in this photo originally, that we’ve “come so far”, isn’t the whole truth. What I saw wasn’t what is, but what could be. A preview.
The thing about love is that it should not blind us. We have to love with our eyes wide open, seeing the faults in those we love as well as ourselves. Yes, there is love in “Love”, but don’t for second forget that many people still strive to not only be loved but also respected and secure for the other 364 days, 51 weeks, or 11 months of the of the year outside of their pride days, recognition weeks, or history months.
I’m glad Whitney asked to publish my photo and asked me to write an accompanying piece. It’s helped to reinforce how some of my world view has evolved since the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade. Yes, I see love in “Love”, but it’s the kind of love that needs to be nurtured and grown, not the kind to be left on the vine to fend for itself. It can and will die. We all must be vigilant in making the choice to love others every day and work to put that love into action, no matter how big or small. If we all do that, we can make sure that what I thought I saw during the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade becomes the truth.