Through the lens of a Minneapolis photographer, images of a week unlike any other
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The images, captured in the days following George Floyd's death, are powerful, stark and intimate.
"It was unreal," says Wale Agboola, a Minneapolis-based freelance photographer. "Once I got closer, it felt like you were in a different world."
Agboola has compiled a gallery of 500 photographs of the rioting, the protests, the damage left behind, the cleanup effort and outside Floyd's memorial service.
"I realized this morning that I saw the video of George Floyd being murdered," Agboola declares. "A peaceful part of me left and turned into anger."
It was a week when peaceful chants for change were largely drowned out by rioting and looting.
"Just the smell of tear gas, the smell of smoke, the smell of everything, its intensity," Agboola recalls. "Almost like an idea that anything can happen at any time."
The 32-year old photographer was born in Nigeria but raised in Minneapolis.
He's been on freelance assignments in countries around the world, including China, Somalia, India, the Netherlands, Finland and the United Kingdom.
"My instinct as a storyteller is to go and record, just keep going," he says. "But also, just capturing moments that I think are relevant and tell the story the way I'm looking at it. The way I'm seeing things."
But this, he says, was different.
Floyd died on Memorial Day, after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.
Three nights later, after paying his respects at the memorial for Floyd at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, Agboola was heading home when a friend contacted him.
"A friend of mine called me and said, you need to get to the 3rd Precinct right away," he recalls.
Agboola drove down to Lake Street, shocked to see multiple buildings on fire.
"I'm just like, whoa, that's an entire block on fire," he remembers thinking. "How did that even happen?"
He began snapping photos.
Then Agboola focused his lens on a young woman in the street.
"I saw her like, raise her fist," he remembers.
He took several pictures of her silhouette, while flames erupted behind her.
One of those images is now on the cover of the latest' City Pages.'
"Through the years of the killings of black folks in Minneapolis, I've never seen something like this," Agboola declares. "An awakening like this."
He didn't stop there.
Over the next several days, Agboola took hundreds of compelling photos of protests in the street, gutted buildings and charred cars, and scores of people helping with a massive cleanup.
"It was a community of brown people, yellow people, white people, everyone picking up bricks by bricks," he says. "Everyone rolled their sleeves up and started building the community and start piecing things together. That was very emotional for me."
Agboola believes the world is watching.
Floyd's memorial service, he says, was a pivotal moment.
"Where we saw pain and grief and people trying to cope with injustice– and how can we rebuild and how can we go on?" he says softly.
On Wednesday, Agboola revisited Lake Street.
"Is this the first time you've been back here?" he was asked. "The very first time since I've actually taken photographs from here now," he answered.
Several structures nearby, including the 3rd Precinct and an apartment building under construction are gutted.
An Autozone Store has burned down to the ground.
"People were angry and people were frustrated," Agboola says quietly.
"Do you think this area can come back?" he was asked. "It will," he says. "I believe it will take time. But the people of Minneapolis are strong."
Through the lens of one man: images of a week unlike any other.
Agboola hopes justice will have her own chapter here.
"I hope the photos I've taken stand still in time to remind us of where change started," he says. "I see a community that is going to be stronger. But I think justice needs to be served. And I think George Floyd deserves that."
You can find more of Agboola's work here.