The frigid air of January punctuated the harsh reality that our former Gov. Bob McDonnell was convicted of corruption charges. After the sentencing announcement, members of media, who’d huddled together for months, fled to file stories, back to their familiar beats in cubicles under fluorescent light. Back to normal. Well almost, except for the ominous and exciting prospect of the 2015 UCI Road World Championships’ arrival in Richmond. The buzz circling the race matched the flurry of work behind the scenes and in the streets. In between those historic events, controversy over the baseball stadium grabbed headlines, deplorable conditions of public schools continued, gun violence shattered lives in public housing, 2016 presidential hopefuls began their pilgrimages to the Commonwealth, Stone Brewing began construction, anchoring a formerly desolate area of Fulton Bottom, while poverty in the city remained at about 25 percent. 2015 marked one of Richmond’s most ambitious years, and these images provide a glimpse into a remarkable city, caught in the dualities of good and evil, success and failure, triumph and heartbreak.
The UCI Road World Championships: Published Sept 22. Dieyah Rasheed of the defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality, an activist for 47 years, watches a plane tow a banner that reads “Confederate Heros Matter” above the Jefferson Davis monument. She and others marshaled supporters to raise awareness of social struggles in Richmond and to protest Confederate memorials as backdrops for the bike-race route.
Photographer’s Note: Protests are pretty much a dime a dozen, but the plane circling Monument Avenue with the Confederate banner had most attendees looking skyward, proving that anything can happen, so you have to show up and look for the image that best tells the story. Her gaze is intense and powerful and offers a window into Richmond’s ongoing struggle to heal from the Civil War.
The Push for Change in Mosby Court: Published Nov. 17. Children comfort each other during a vigil mourning the death of William Crutchfield. Police found his body in a Mosby Court residence in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, shot multiple times. Crutchfield’s death was the ninth homicide in Richmond public housing of the year.
Photographer’s Note: There are few moments in this job that are as wrenching as watching children at a murder vigil. They look at the adults crying and follow suit. The hands and eyes tell the story. As soon as I saw the older boys pull the youngest tight I knew that was a key moment that illustrates the damage created by gun violence.
Artist and Musician Blasco, 47: Published Sep 29. “It seems like Richmond wants to be a 21st-century, cosmopolitan city. I’d say its greatest strength is it’s not. … Growing up in Paris was long and hard. Not the romantic Paris of movies, but the Paris of gangs with bike chains and switch blades. That’s the neighborhood I came up in. Same neighborhood as Edith Piaf grew up, all working-class.”
Photographer’s Note: I met Blasco at a warehouse in Shockoe Slip. The light was beautiful and I loved the symmetry of the doorway. Oh yeah, and a cowboy hat never hurts the cool factor.
VCU Men’s Basketball Coach Will Wade: Unpublished. Will Wade and the referee react during Virginia Commonwealth University’s victory over Prairie View on Nov. 13 at the Seigel Center.
Photographer’s Note: Wade is a joy to photograph and fun to watch, which I had the opportunity to do for a Style cover story. He’s the most intense mild-mannered guy I’ve ever seen. You just don’t expect him to see him explode in anger, stomp the floor, and attempt to bully referees. He certainly doesn’t back down from a fight.
Boiling Over: Published June 23. A decrepit pool gathers dust in sweltering Gilpin Court while Richmond’s troubled housing authority says it’s searching for solutions. The pool in Gilpin Court has languished in disrepair for three years. A group of children playing in the area say they swim at Battery Park.
Photographer’s Note: The perception of going into the housing projects is that it’s a grim and spooky place. I find the opposite is often true. Children there are fun, smart and open. The adults warm to you quickly. I was looking to illustrate the surroundings while getting a candid moment. The kids ignored me after a few minutes, allowing me to record a moment of everyday life.
Trump Riles, Inspires, Infuriates in Richmond Rally: Published Oct. 15. Thousands of people who come to support Donald Trump at his Henrico County rally punctuate his speech with thunderous applause. Others criticize him and some want to see the celebrity in person.
Photographer’s Note: A small group of photographers were allowed to hop on the stage as soon as Trump started working the line. I noticed this young boy eagerly awaiting an autograph. His reaction best tells the story of Trump’s impact.
Trump Riles, Inspires, Infuriates in Richmond Rally: Published Oct. 15. In the crowd, estimated by Richmond International Raceway Complex staff to be about 5,000, there are clashes. One woman begins shouting “black power,” which draws a handful of people into a shouting match. Several people are escorted out. A few college students heckled the hour-long speech by shouting “dump Trump.”
In response, the crowd chants, “We want Trump.”
Photographer’s Note: I saw trouble coming a mile away. Several minutes passed before the protesters were removed, so I just moved toward the exit and waited for the action to come to me.
The Sentencing of Former Gov. Bob McDonnell: Unpublished: Flanked by his daughters, former Gov. Bob McDonnell stands outside the Federal Courthouse on Broad Street shortly after Judge James R. Spencer sentences him on Jan. 6 to two years in federal prison followed by two years of probation. Outside the courthouse he once again denies the charges against him and promises an appeal.
Photographer’s Note: As the former governor left the courthouse, media scrambled and gathered around a microphone setup. I jockeyed for the best position possible and stayed put. I used a long lens to get this image, trying to eliminate as much of the crowd as possible. The result is an intimate moment captured during a chaotic scene.