Following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police officers, photographer Bryon Summers felt heartbroken and frustrated.
As an African-American man, he felt that working toward a solution was a matter of life and death. But he felt typical methods like marches and demonstrations weren’t having an immediate impact. Instead, he took a different tack.
“I wanted to approach the problem of misrepresentation of Black men in mainstream media,” he wrote in an email. “Photography is my medium of choice and with social media at our fingertips today, we can all choose what is news worthy instantly.”
So Summers changed the narrative.
He decided to photograph 1,000 black men and post their portraits in an online gallery. He called it the We Love You Project.
“I figured if I can photograph 1,000 black men and we all post them online in solidarity, it can borrow elements of marching to take back our image,” he said.
Here are nine of Summers’ portraits, with an important message:
1. You are truly remarkable.
2. And worthy of our respect and admiration.
3. We are so glad you’re here.
4. And we love to see you happy, healthy, and safe.
5. And we will never stop pushing…
6. …to make this country one that is worthy of you.
7. Because you are thought about.
8. You are prayed for.
9. Quite simply, you are loved.
So far, Summers has worked with 360 participants in New York City and Washington, D.C. In the photos, each man and child wears a black shirt and poses in front of a white background.
Their appearance is intentionally uniform so viewers can hone in — not on clothes or location — but on the participant’s humanity.
“The participants come from all walks of life but you won’t be able to tell [who’s] a police officer from [who’s] a school teacher,” Summers wrote.
“They’re all Black men and they’re all human.”