Denis Ivan Perez Bravo is an East Bay-based photographer and organizer who isn’t shy about jumping into the action.
The images he captures on the front lines of protests in Northern California show the intense struggle of today’s social movements.
The risk of bodily harm can come from both sides of a scrimmage. While covering the news, Dennis has been hit by projectiles fired from police weapons and risks being trampled by crowds of protestors.
On top of that, Denis is undocumented, so he’s literally risking his freedom. But he says that his photos are worth it.
Beyond capturing images from the front lines in battles for justice and liberation, Denis also fills his camera rolls with shots of community sporting events and cultural affairs from his neighborhood in Richmond, CA.
This week on Rightnowish, we talk to Denis about what it means to be on the front line, and why he sometimes crosses that line.
Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with Denis Ivan Perez Bravo.
Pen: What caught me initially was shots of football games… then Snoop and Mike Curry for the Warriors. And this is probably the first time I saw you work this shot right here. There’s an African-American woman, clearly pregnant, double dutching. It’s at the barbecuing while black in Oakland. And what jumps out to me are the people in the background, all the expressions. There’s people with like camera phones, holding them up, just everybody is smiling, everybody having a joyous time.
Denis: I grew up in Oakland and so to capture a moment like this, I love Black culture because I grew up around Black culture. And, it’s parallel to Mexican/Guatemaltecan culture that I have. And so, when I think of Oakland, this is what I think of. Like, I double dutched when I was young and everything. It is Oakland and I’m glad that I was able to capture it.
Pen: Are you still nice at double dutching though?
Denis: [laughs] I think I got better.
Pen: I could never get it. [laughs] My timing was always off. Alright. Here’s another one for you. This one jumps out at me because you had taken some photos related to a hunger strike happening out in Antioch. What’s happening there?
Denis: An officer that works at Antioch. He killed an unarmed Indigenous man in San Francisco in the Mission district. He got taken out of the San Francisco Police Department and he was looking for a job. He had worked in Antioch before and they hired him back. There were six young people that don’t want what they call “a killer cop” in their streets. And they took a stand. The organization they have is called 6forced2strike. They occupied the space for around two to three weeks. Protest, marches, community awareness.