On the morning of June 27th, activist and artist Bree Newsome scaled a 30-foot flagpole outside of the state capitol of South Carolina and brought down the Confederate battle flag that had been flying there since 1961. (The flag was reinstalled following Ms. Newsome's arrest.) Shortly after her act of civil disobedience, an image of Newsome went viral on social media when a 30-year-old photographer and web designer uploaded it to his Instagram account. Fusion reached out the photographer, Adam Anderson, who shared six other exclusive photos from the event and talked about what it was like to witness history being made.
Take me through what happened.
It was probably about 7am or so, I was actually walking to my car from the night before, I felt like walking around and was shooting photos around the capitol because there’s some cool stuff around there. I just kind of turned around when I heard some commotion and heard a security guard from a distance say to “get down.” And then there she was.
Would you describe what you did as an act of activism?
No, this was not an act of activism.
Are you a photographer?
Yes. My day job right now is in graphic design but after work and on weekends I take on as much freelance photo work as I can get. It's what I really enjoy doing.
What sort of camera were you using?
A Canon 6D digital camera.
What sort of modifications did you make to the photo?
All I did was do a little color grading, I didn’t add or subtract anybody or anything. I rotated [the image] a little bit to straighten it out.
Did you know you were taking a photo that would be considered so iconic?
I knew it could be with the recent events - but I was just trying to pay attention to framing the shot and making sure the composition was decent.
How did it go public?
I just went through and picked a couple that I liked and I shared one on Instagram and to my Facebook. Then I started getting emails from odd addresses on my phone, and now we are talking.
What are your feelings about what you witnessed this morning?
I got to witness history! This will be remembered for a long, long time and the coolest part about it all, is that this picture going around is representative of how I saw it happen, I chose that image for a reason and now everyone that looks at it, is seeing the event how I did.
As far as her going up there, that is just something that only a person that cares this strongly would do. She was really brave to do that, standing up for what [she] believes in. She had a friend with her as well, somebody spotting her. He stood there calm and collected helping his friend.
Did law enforcement officers near the capitol approach you?
They told me to back off when they noticed me getting a bit close. They just said back up, I backed up.
They weren’t overly aggressive, they established that she was non-violent and she was saying she was ready to be arrested, so they just kind of waited for her to come down. I think it was handled well by everybody.
Were there others around you?
A few people were [jogging] by and stopped to take some pictures and videos.
Do you realize you took a photo that will be shared and remembered for decades?
It’s really bizarre. This picture looks like all of the others I take so it feels odd for it to be getting recognition. I now fully understand why all of my college professors stressed the importance of an image with meaning, not just an image that “looks good.” Thanks Anne/Jeff!
What are your thoughts on the Confederate flag?
The flag isn’t a personal problem for me, I know what it means and it’s not something I dwell over, but it’s not a positive example, I don’t think.
How long have you been taking photos?
Since forever ago. I hurt my knee skateboarding a while back and I still wanted to hang out with my friends who were skating. So I just brought a camera along and hung out.
Do you plan to post other images from this morning?
That was my favorite one so that’s why I posted it but I guess the other ones will eventually surface at some point.
Anything else you want to add?
I was super impressed because I would never have climbed up that pole, even with a spotter who looked like he knew what he was doing. I’m a bit afraid of heights. I don’t know, In the moment when I posted that Instagram picture, I was having strong feelings. Being so close to something so rare is really exciting. I called her a hero because anybody who stands up for something they believe in…especially to this extent and is willing to be arrested, is cool with me. I respect that.
All images by Adam Anderson.
Anna Holmes is a writer, editor and failed grade school spy. She is the founder of Jezebel, a columnist for the NYT Sunday Book Review, and the Editor of Fusion's Digital Voices section.