Chris Simms is a 20 year old who was raised in Huntingtown, MD. He graduated from Huntingtown High School and now attends Towson University, just a short cab ride north of Baltimore City. Chris has an innate ability to see situations from a different perspective, like many great artists do. Chris is drawn to photography. He feels that he has the ability to get the shot, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. He wants to tell stories with his images, travel to culturally different regions, and potentially dangerous places just to share his gift.
On April 27, 2015 the moment arrived for Chris to utilize his ability and put his talents to the test right in his own backyard. Chris recalls that day, watching the events unfold on TV with a friend in Towson saying “…have you ever just seen something and you just felt like you just need to be there…I just had that feeling that if I didn’t go I would be swamped in regret.” Chris said that he felt that he was witnessing history, he would be able to show the photos he took to his children in 30 years and share that experience with them. He added that seeing the video of the CVS pharmacy burning on live TV and coming to the realization that it was only 5-10 miles away from campus left him with no excuse not to go.
Chris spent the next five days in Baltimore covering the events as they unfolded. He witnessed the protests both peaceful and violent. Chris was there when the curfews began and stayed for the decision to charge the 6 police officers with varying charges were announced.
Being in Baltimore, in person, for five days and then returning home to Calvert County for three days after the events gave him a unique perspective. Chris says that “… it gave me a weird, but eye opening perspective… to see all the things we are taking for granted and all the things we don’t have to worry about in Calvert County, the people in downtown Baltimore worry everyday about.”
He says that he really got a sense of the desperation felt amongst the crowds and could feel that the people were just frustrated and wanted change enacted, but also saw and witnessed a sense of unity among many of the protestors.
Through his photos, Chris said that he really wanted to allow those that viewed them an unbiased experience, to view the events as if you were walking down the streets and witnessing it for yourself, as Chris himself was. Chris became dedicated to getting the best shots to tell a good story. Chris says that for some of his pictures he “… climbed trees blocks ahead of protesters walking and … ran blocks to get in front of bikers popping wheelies…”.
I asked Chris if he would share a favorite story, something that touched him or that he just wanted to share about his experience. He said he had so many that this was the toughest question during our interview. However, he shared two with me. He recalls one instance where he was swept up in his emotions from witnessing this act. Chris said that he witnessed a young boy drop to his knees and then proceed to lay down in front of a S.W.A.T. vehicle that was driving by one of the protests. Everytime he thinks of it, Chris says it almost brings him to tears. He went on to explain that any story he shared with me would be one of those “you had to be there” moments. These are the images that many fail to witness by viewing the major media outlets.
The second story Chris shared with me was more lighthearted when it happened, but Chris admittedly empathizes with his mother now. He told me that he remembers the night of the first curfew. He explained that “…warnings were sent down from above by a helicopter…” and soon after, tear gas began to be thrown by the police officers in an effort to disperse the crowds. He recalls “…running from smoke grenades, snapchatting and snapping photos…” as he ran down the street when suddenly his mother called his cell phone. Chris says that he answered the phone and quickly exclaimed “I love you, I’m okay” and then hung up. He agrees that he couldn’t imagine being his mother, watching all of the violence from her television screen, knowing her son was there, and then only getting five words from him.
Through Chris’ images, all who view them have the opportunity to witness the Baltimore riots from a unique perspective.
Be sure to check out Chris’ website for more photos from the Baltimore Riots, as well as other events.