Peace walk in Compton, where hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls, and thousands of protesters came out to march against police brutality.
June 6, 2020. One of the many protests in Downtown Los Angeles. On this particular day, the protest started at LAPD headquarters and moved to City Hall.
June 7, 2020. Hollywood, California. This was probably the biggest protest in Los Angeles, with a crowd of over 10,000 people.
May 30, 2020. Fairfax District. Day 3 of protesting. What started out as a beautiful and peaceful protest, quickly shifted with the heavy LAPD presence.
June 5, 2020. Non profit organization Justice LA put together a beautiful memorial in front of Los Angeles hall of Justice. Thousands of roses were laid on the sidewalk for people who have lost their lives to police brutality.
June 5, 2020. A group praying in front of Los Angeles City Hall.
Day one of the “Safer at Home” order in Los Angeles began on March 19, 2020. In the early stages of quarantine, self-portrait sessions became the way I channeled my creative energy. After the first week of self-isolating, I wanted to explore spaces outside of the four walls I was confined to, so I ventured outside to document the everyday happenings in the community. Walking around Leimert Park, a neighborhood that has been predominantly Black since the 1960s, I captured ordinary moments I witnessed on the streets. I was inspired by my memories of growing up in Los Angeles.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis PD. Protests erupted in Los Angeles two days later. As with many other protests, I am always there as a protester first, photographer second. I belong to a population of people who have endured so much in this country, so the anger, pain, frustration, sadness, resilience, and power that I capture in my photos, exists within me. Being Black in America informs my work. Making images during this time isn't an opportunity for me to capitalize on suffering, but a time to highlight the joy in resistance.
As a documentary photographer who splits her time between Los Angeles and Brooklyn, Mei-Ling explores such layered issues as the complexity of intersectional identity; elevating the narrative of invisible communities; society's fetishization of marginalized subcultures; the universality of otherness through a global lens; and the appropriation, re-appropriation, and reclaiming of cultural narratives.
A largely self-taught visual storyteller, Mei-Ling has been featured in The New York Times, Vice, NPR, The Washington Post, and Vogue, and her list of clients include global brands such as Nike and Apple. In 2019, Mei-Ling received a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation through their Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice in the Americas program, which funds reporting grants for women journalists. Through this grant, Mei-Ling will create work focused on racism in the maternal healthcare system in the U.S.
How do you think the work you've created reflects the time we're in?
I belong to a population of people who have endured so much in this country, so the anger, pain, frustration, sadness, resilience, and power that I capture in my photos, exists within me. Being Black in America informs my work. Making images during this time isn't an opportunity for me to capitalize on suffering, but a time to highlight the joy in resistance. I connect with that. I am there as a protester first, photographer second, and that will always be my perspective.
What do you think the future looks like? And how do you see the arts contributing to it?
I am uncertain about the future. I constantly wonder what effects the uprisings will have on things moving forward. Will injustices continue to occur and be ignored by larger society? Will we be pacified with performative activism, or will there be real change? In terms of the pandemic, I believe society will never return to "normal" life as we've known. In the way 9/11 has had long term effects on society, this too will have a lasting change. I definitely believe that the arts will continue to expand and shift and be a means by which people connect.
What places in Los Angeles most inspire you?
Of course I am inspired by the beauty and nature of our city -the outdoors, beaches, mountainous regions, hiking trails, sunsets, mild 70 degree weather year round. But what, or who I should say, I am truly inspired by are native Angelenos. I am inspired by the rich history of the city of Los Angeles, and its relationship to the people who have lived through the many changes and remain resilient.
Do you have any future projects that you'd like to share with us?
I started a project last year with a Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice grant from the IWMF, with a focus on Black maternal health. I was troubled by the disparity in birthing outcomes for Black women and wanted to dive deeper into the issue. With this work, I am highlighting Black birth workers as well as documenting the journey of women who are pregnant and want to share their birthing experience.