The Center Cannot Hold

Jessica Lehrman captures the gravity of human discontent in volatile urban spaces.

In the last decade, the U.S. has seen a groundswell of rebellious discontent, culminating in movements for social, political, and economic justice. It’s one of the most promising and vigorous eras for change since the 1960s. Brooklyn-based photographer Jessica Lehrman has spent the last few years documenting activist movements in New York, from the Occupy Wall Street encampment to Black Lives Matter protests to climate change rallies. She’s one of hundreds of photographers attempting to capture these uprisings, but her photos possess a rawness that others fail to reproduce: the vibrant energy of demonstrators flooding city streets, hands raised as fists and open palms, mouths open wide in dissent.

Lehrman explores the throngs of protesters—the physicality of human bodies reclaiming spaces and the timbre of voices chanting challenges to power—with a sensitivity that never defers to the demands of sensationalism. In her images, we see the resilience of people who’ve been beaten down but aren’t dispossessed of their spirit, and the communities that coalesce around the promise of change.