'Chronicle :: Ferguson' photo book project aims to capture little-seen images, personal stories | St. Louis Public Radio

'Chronicle :: Ferguson' photo book project aims to capture little-seen images, personal stories

Jan 17, 2016

A group of primarily young St. Louis residents have launched a campaign to turn a crowd-sourced photo book about Ferguson-related protests and events into a free educational package for students in area schools.

The project titled "Chronicle :: Ferguson" compiles first-hand perspectives  and images of events related to the death of Michael Brown in August 2014. It was developed over the last year by 24-year-old photographer Santiago Bianco, photographer and curator Jason Gray, and TEDx Gateway Arch Curator Steve Sommers. 

“It’s important that we see some of the smaller instances that happened, some of the more personal stories,” Bianco said.

Bianco said he saw few of those personal moments captured by the traditional media following the events in Ferguson. Recalling the night the grand jury decided not to hand down an indictment in the case, Bianco said he attended what he said was a peaceful march on South Grand, but he grew frustrated when only the late-night violence made it into the news.

Later, Sommers viewed Bianco’s Ferguson-related photography, and the two men started to discuss the idea of putting together a book.  For Bianco, it was imperative to include other photographers' work. In part, he said he wanted to satisfy his own curiosity, since he saw so many other people documenting Ferguson events and wondered how he would see all those other images.

The project is one of several launched in the past year that attempt to document the rise of Ferguson-related protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. Universities have launched databases preserving images and text;  documentaries are in the works. Most of these projects share the intent of preserving various media from the movement, educating the public, and providing a narrative outside “the traditional media.” Chronicle :: Ferguson follows suit.

Photographer Santiago Bianco said he wanted to capture the smaller, personal moments during Ferguson-related protests and events.
Credit Santiago Bianco
"We're trying to get them to do three things: one, get them engaged in their communities; two, get them to understand the arc of history in the United States relating to inequality; and three, figure out a way to have the students build some sort of creative and innovative way to create change in the future."

That's where 22-year-old Manar-ul Islam Swaby gets involved. An intervention math teacher for the St. Louis school district, Swaby is currently developing an educational curriculum to be paired with the book. The curriculum will be aimed at high school students, but Swaby said she hopes it will be useful for college students and young adults as well. The project's designers said they hope to donate the book and curriculum to participating schools and organizations.

“Essentially I’m working to build an exploratory space with young people,” said Swaby. “We’re trying to get them to do three things: one, get them engaged in their communities; two, get them to understand the arc of history in the United States relating to inequality; and three, figure out a way to have the students build some sort of creative and innovative way to create change in the future.”

Swaby and the others said they have not yet found schools to take the books and curriculum, but have been speaking with area Boys and Girls Clubs about finding a way to make the project available through that organization. 

The project heads launched a Kickstarter campaign this past week to fund further curriculum development and defray printing costs. The project so far has raised approximately $2,000 of the desired $25,000 in under 24 hours.