Photo Series Brings African American Men and Police Officers Together for More Than Just a Picture

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An Ohio City man is creating a photo series called “Black and Blue, Side by Side” to bring African American men and police officers together.

The concept is one picture, two strangers standing side by side. For one picture Rick Preston, who is black and Cleveland Police Captain Tom Mandzak, who is white, stood shoulder to shoulder for at least five minutes while photographer Billy Delfs captured the moment he describes as somewhat awkward.

Project organizer, Al Wasco says he wants the pair, like Preston and Mandzak, to spend some time together and hopefully talk so they don’t view the other as a stereotype.  

“I hope the next time the police officer or the African-American man sees their counterpart in a situation that might not be that friendly, they are going to remember that was a pretty good guy that I met,” said Wasco. “It is just an attempt to help individuals see each other differently.”

In the black and white picture both Preston and Mandzak look directly at the camera with straight but relaxed faces.

Delfs, who is voluntering his time, says he wants this picture to raise the question “what is their relationship?” 

“I feel like it is a national question right now. It is important to see what that relationship is right now. And investigate it a little bit more," Delfs said.  "I feel like it is important to look at these people as individuals more than stereotypes that is the main thing to show that in the pictures somehow. “

Delfs says Preston and Mandzak did have a conversation before and after the picture. That’s what organizers want to see:  the black community and police officers more engaged and hopefully not view each other as enemies but rather as individuals, especially if they should meet again during a crisis situation.

They’re working with the Cleveland Police Department to hold a photoshoot event in the fall that they hope will also further the conversation of race relations with the CPD.  The hope is to display some 40 photos once the project is complete.  

 

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