When Black Lives Matter marched through downtown Minneapolis this spring to protest the murder of Freddie Gray, a fleet of photographers streamed ahead of the crowd the whole route, shooting backward. Anna Min and Tina Cho did things a little differently. Straddling a scooter laden with 40 pounds of equipment, Cho steered while Min brandished the cameras. The two wove, front to back, in and out of the crowd.
The point, of course, was to capture images from all angles, of many disparate faces in a parade of thousands.
The documentarian duo say that's the essence of their artistic philosophy, to freeze moments in pursuit of undisturbed truth. They're uniquely positioned to do so, they believe, because they happen to be smack dab at the intersection of everything.
"We see things because of who we are and where we've grown up," Min says. "We're both queer, we're gender nonconforming, and we're immigrants. We see connections beyond black-white, male-female, domestic-foreign, because we're just in the middle. We can go into a lot of these spaces and not cause a ruckus."
Min grew up in Cedar-Riverside. Cho's from the north side of Chicago. A chance meeting of minds at a Twin Cities LGBTQ dance party revealed a mutual zeal for social entrepreneurship, eventual romance, and now a creative partnership where the impulse to snap underrepresented communities always trumps cash.
Min Enterprises Photography, founded in 2010, boasts a rainbow portfolio of large-scale events like Pride, Queertopia, Take Back the Night, marriage amendment rallies, and the National Conference on Creating Change. About 90 percent of the work they do is vastly underpaid, but they do it for grassroots groups that otherwise wouldn't get the same publicity.
"Our clients are people of color, artists, queer and trans groups who don't typically get the press," Cho says. "In our media-saturated culture today, if you don't have pretty photos, people don't pay attention to you."
For now, Min works part-time at the Loft Literary Center, but will be focusing on photography full-time after August. While the Macalester econ grad could make a lot more money doing something else, Min has a dream to train, pay, and equip a pool of young people to pick up cameras in their own communities and cover the news happening all around them. Min believes it all starts with getting art into the press.
"We're missing a lot of things happening in areas where no reporters go unless there's a disaster," Min says. "I think that can be remedied really easily."