The first NYC Pride March took place in 1970.
Where are we today? Proud and defiant in strange, dark and uncertain times. Also, celebratory. Pissed off. Loving. Prideful, that’s where.
Connecticut-based photographer Mel Rolleri marched in this year’s June parade and nailed some awesome shots that really bring the event to life.
I met Mel at the Fujilove Live conference in New York City last February. She was one of the most friendly, outgoing and helpful people I met there – my first trip to the Big Apple. East Coast meets West Coast was fun for me – I love Mel’s spunk. She says it like it is. She’s smart & sassy. She’s also a very talented photographer.
Mel was invited to walk in the parade alongside “Mama” Jean DeVente, an activist who was present at the 1969 Stonewall Riots and is considered the mother of the modern gay rights movement. DeVente was Grand Marshall during the first parade in 1970.
“I was very honored,” she said. “We were very close to the front, so I only saw the spectators, and the people in the parade directly in front and behind us,” she said. “That, in and of itself, gave me LOADS of wonderful subjects. Just getting ourselves to the start to meet the car, was totally overwhelming for me. Everyone we were passing was an incredible picture.”
During the march, Mel had her Fujifilm X-70 set to bracket film simulations (classic chrome, black & white with yellow filter, and another monochrome) and her my X-T20 set the same way (except Acros).
“After getting some shots of the participants near us, I concentrated on the spectators. Everyone was so full of joy!! I saw this woman in the crowd. She was standing on the bottom of the barricade, so she was a bit taller than everyone else around her. She was smiling ear to ear. Clapping, waving, waving her pride flag, blowing kisses. I probably took 8-10 photos of her (single shots, not rapid fire). I actually got three or four good ones, but when I got this one, I knew it was going to be the best shot of the day.”
Mel said she primarily makes images for her own enjoyment.
“I take photos for me. Which is a great position to be in. Anything that makes me happy, I snap. I’m not a professional, although I have sold a number of landscape photos this past year, which is very cool. The idea that something I created is hanging in someone’s home is a really great feeling.”
She’s been interested in photography for most of her adult life and recalls taking a darkroom class 30 years ago.
“But it was on and off for many years. I really started to get into it maybe six years ago when we were in Italy. I took tons of pictures with whatever iteration of iPhone I had at the time, and mostly with the Hipstamatic app, which is still one of my favorites.”
She said she returned home from that trip, and sold all her Canon gear, for a much smaller, lighter, mirrorless system. She started with Olympus, but recently switched to Fujifilm.
“No going back,” She said. “I am in love!”
In the past, she’s mostly shot landscapes, seascapes, sunrises, and sunsets – the beauty of nature. She also enjoys architectural photography.
“I rarely took pics of people. In fact, I’d get annoyed when they were in my shot. But I’ve always loved street photography as a genre, before I even knew there was a name for it. As I look around my house, at artwork I have on my walls, I have seven framed prints of what I know now to be famous street photos (Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau, etc). I’ve had them for close to 30 years.”
She said she’s been toying with street photography for about two years, but really good hooked since participating in the Women’s March in NYC in January.
She also had the chance to meet and shoot with street photographer Valerie Jardin in NYC – and now she’s completely hooked.
One thing is for certain — Mel is going places with her passionate pursuit of photography and I’m proud to share her work.
Follow Mel Rolleri’s photography on Instagram: @melrolleri and on her website: http://www.melrolleriphotography.com/