Dissent at a distance: How we captured the June cover image

HCN’s photo editor discusses making the photo and the significance of photojournalism during protests.

 

On April 10, 2020, activists converged on the Eloy and La Palma immigrant detention centers in Eloy, Arizona, for a “COVID-safe” car protest to call attention to the threat of contracting the coronavirus facing detainees inside the facilities.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News
Amid the COVID-19 epidemic, many protesters have found ways to demonstrate while social distancing. In April, more than 200 protestors gathered for a car-only rally, driving in loops past the Eloy Detention and La Palma Correctional centers in Pinal County, Arizona. They joined to demonstrate against immigrant detention during a pandemic. High Country News Photo Editor Roberto (Bear) Guerra, who is based in Tucson, Arizona, took the photograph that became our June cover, an image that resonated with readers and the newsroom alike.

High Country News: Can you tell us how you captured this photo?

Bear Guerra: The protest was about 100 cars or so full of people who were driving in a loop, and there was a moment where the traffic stopped. I was able to step out in front of the car, and we were able to just have a moment where they’re very much collaborating with me as I’m making the image.

HCN: What did you see in this moment that you wanted to capture? 

BG: I saw a lot of people willing to risk their own safety and help to draw attention to these conditions inside the detention center. They’ve been calling attention to the problems with our immigration system for a long time, but COVID forced another kind of moment, when they really had to turn up the pressure.

HCN: What does the black-and-white format do for this shot?

BG: To me, it’s more of a direct route to people being able to make an emotional connection to whatever I’m photographing. I find color to be distracting at times. Color adds a whole other layer of information that we need to process. By reducing an image to black-and-white, I think it allows us to have this unfiltered connection to a person or to whatever is happening.

HCN: What response are you hoping readers have to the photograph? 

BG: I hope it will get people to read that story. I hope it will get people to think beyond just the three individuals who were in the more privileged position to be able to protest. I hope that it gets people to think about the folks who are stuck inside the detention center.

HCN: What do you think about photographing protests now, especially in light of the last week, where journalists have been targeted by police while documenting?

BG: We still have to do it. It is incredibly important that journalists are out there documenting these things, because if you’re not, then who will? But it is scary. It’s very hard to comprehend that we have a president who is openly suggesting that people attack the press. It’s just kind of mind-boggling. Every time I interact with a photographer, I have to make sure they’re being careful out there, but it’s just, it’s no less important for us to do it.

Gretchen King is the digital editor of High Country News. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor

Note: This story has been updated to correct the month of the protest, which took place in April, not May.

High Country News Classifieds
  • UTAH BEEF
    Grass-fed, grass-finished beef. Available in October. Reserve your beef now. Kate's Land & Cattle Boulder, Utah. [email protected], grassfedbeefbykatie.com
  • SECLUDED COLORADO HIDEAWAY
    This passive solar home sits on 2 lots and offers an abundance of privacy and views while being only 15 minutes to downtown Buena Vista....
  • COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
    Introduction: Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with offices located in Kanab and Escalante, Utah. We are committed to the conservation...
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    For more information visit www. wyofile.com/careers/
  • THRIVING LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE FOR SALE
    Turn-key business opportunity. Successful well established business with room to grow. Excellent highway visibility.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    For more information, visit www.wyofile.com/careers/
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a high-impact, nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 27-year legacy using...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Position Summary Join our Team at the New Mexico Land Conservancy! We're seeking a Project Manager who will work to protect land and water across...
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • WILDLIFE HAVEN
    Beautiful acreage with Teton Creek flowing through it. Springs and ponds, lots of trees, moose and deer. Property has barn. Easy access. approx. 33 acres.
  • ARIZONA CONSERVATION CORPS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Arizona Conservation Corps is seeking a Program Director in Flagstaff or Tucson
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...