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Charlottesville photographer shares experience of covering Confederate statue removals

Photographer Sanjay Suchak in a white helmet takes picture of Confederate monument being taken down
Screenshot from Capturing the Moment: Democracy featuring photographer Sanjay Suchak

Photographer Sanjay Suchak was in Charlottesville, Virginia during the Unite the Right rally on August 11 and 12, 2017. Four years later, he was capturing the moment Confederate statues came down, saying it felt like closure for the community.

“...the idea of dismantling these statues, which are celebrated at some point, for all the wrong reasons, is very attractive to me as a photographer,” he said.

Suchak serves as the senior photographer at the University of Virginia and tour photographer for the Dave Matthews Band. He frequently shoots live events, such as concerts, graduations, and protests, in which he aims to highlight moments people watching in the crowd might not notice. For him, covering statue removals is not that much different from any other event.

Confederate monument being taken down
Photo by Sanjay Suchak

As a self-described observational shooter, he tries to create photos that make people look and think about what’s happening. “Photography allows you to stop a moment in time and pay very close attention to it,” he said.

While at these construction — or deconstruction — sites, Suchak saw a lot of great symbolism between the construction methods and the statues. For example, workers would put chains around the necks of the Confederate statues to hang them from a crane.

He hopes the images he captured show a community that fought to get the Confederate monuments removed and is continuing to make positive changes.

“There's no better example of democracy in photography than the statue removals happening around Virginia,” said Suchak.

Suchak is featured in the new series, Capturing The Moment: Democracy, which follows a diverse group of talented photographers on assignment as they capture unique images representing democracy in America today.

Watch Capturing the Moment Thursday, January 6 on VPM PBS or on PBS.org.