First Images

By Tom Erikson

When Reagan and Bush were first elected I was a student at Brown University and I reacted by lowering the American flag on the campus green, turning it upside-down (the international signal of distress) and hoisting it back up again. A group of secretaries on their way to work at University Hall gathered to watch this sacrilege being committed. As I climbed down off the base of the flagpole some of them actually started hitting me with their handbags. I tried to reassure them that the grounds crew would soon come and right their beloved flag, but in the meantime I was just making a small election day comment.

It was my first overtly political act. Since then I have tried to make my beliefs known, to respond as honestly and creatively as I can to what my country does in my name, and most of all to make honest and real photographs. This has often included making documents of the protests and political art of others. As our appointed president, “W,” geared up for his long-planned invasion of Iraq in 2002 and 2003, huge numbers of us took to the streets in San Francisco to protest. For the first time, I concentrated seriously on making a series of portraits of the fine art of demonstrating.