Faces of Activism

Aside from providing first-person perspectives and documenting activism as it happens, photographers are charged with capturing the pain of tyranny through the eyes of those suffering. Snapping pivotal moments, artists join the boots-on-the-ground participants as messengers to the outside world saying, “This is your fight, too!” By highlighting individuals who are affected by oppressive governments and prejudices, photographers emphasize the pain these injustices cause the world, not just those depicted in the images. Although one person stands behind the camera witnessing the event, there is potential for many to be informed and influenced once the photograph is widely published.

Artist Unknown

Bobby Rush, left, in fur hat, Illinois Chairman of Black Panthers…

January 6, 1970

Read More


Gay Rights, AIDS memorial, San Francisco, CA

ca. 1980's

Read More

“The pictures do not ask you to help these people, but something much more difficult; to be briefly, intensely aware of their existence, an existence as real and significant as your own.”

Danny Lyon

Artist Unknown

Sympathy for Wounded Knee: a group of young Native Americans participate in a drum circle…

March 1973

Read More

Gordon Coster

Studies in Expressions during Mass Funeral Services of Steel Workers Slain…


Read More

In our highly interconnected world, bearing witness to protest does not mean that one must be physically present. As cameras have become more mobile and photography more accessible, anyone who owns a phone can capture images of social protest, police brutality, and the active demand for change. Tragic events such as the murder of George Floyd would have gone unseen by the general public if it weren’t for onlookers who shared videos and photographs from that day.

Activists are tasked with using every tool they have in order to address the ongoing issues facing our nation. Scroll down to see how others have used their voices and participated in documentary photography. Recall times in your life when you’ve been present to calls for social justice and post with #DPAMbearingwitness to add to this collection.

Collector’s Statement

Seeing is believing, in the benefits of civic protest. We have assembled this photography collection because believing leads to the actions necessary for the American dream of freedom and prosperity to be a reality. Langston Hughes inspires us with “Let America Be America Again” and DePaul’s talented team curated iconic images of valiant individuals Demanding Change to make this dream true for every American. Our goal is that this combination motivates people to seek their path to creating a better world.

To learn more about the Wilson Garling Collection please visit www.thewilson-garlingcollection.org.

Project Statement & Contributors

When Chicago collectors, Thomas J. Wilson and Jill M. Garling, approached DePaul Art Museum for an exhibition of their social justice photography collection, museum staff understood this as an opportunity to share the museum’s curatorial voice, recognizing the similarities in mission between this important local private collection and the museum itself. Calling upon the next generation of social justice-minded museum professionals, Demanding Change, Bearing Witness is the first exhibition for DePaul Art Museum to be curated by students from DePaul University. The virtual exhibition reflects an academic-year-long collaboration, through a three-course series taught in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Students from the Museum Studies program and across the college worked alongside faculty members, art museum staff, and the private collection manager to explore the RiseUP! collection and to shed light on the contribution of photography to social activism in the United States. Students chose the main themes and goals of the exhibition set to the backdrop of Langston Hughes’s 1938 poem “Let America Be America Again.” The students deliberately selected artworks from the collection to convey the importance of the individual in social movements, wrote the exhibition labels and descriptions, and have developed public programs that carry this from a virtual exhibition platform to an in-person conversation.

DePaul Art Museum is immensely grateful to the following groups and individuals for their dedication to and support of Demanding Change, Bearing Witness: Photographs from the Wilson Garling RiseUP! Collection:

The Wilson Garling Collection

Thomas J. Wilson, Collector
Jill M. Garling, Collector
Michele Heftman, Curator & Collection Manager

DePaul Art Museum RiseUP! Curatorial Interns & Fellow

Spencer Bolding, Curatorial Intern
Zoey Dalbert, Curatorial Intern
Margo Lipscomb, Curatorial Intern
Hannah Orlando, Arthur D. James Museum Studies Fellow

DePaul University Student Curators

Basil Beyreis-Heim
Spencer Bolding
Nicole Bucio
Margo Lipscomb
Leila Nessar
Jakub Nicpon

Lisa Niemiec
Grace Onofrey
Anya Paluch
Nora Ryan
Devin Thompson
Izzy Wagner

DePaul University Student Collaborators

Adenike Adeniji
Sophia Antoniades
Michelle Calderon
Alexis Cervantes
Natalia Coba
Reginay Courtland
Alexandro Esparza
Gabriela Fernande
Julian Gama
Rori Hill
Anil Joshi
Andres Mendoza
Joseph Moreno
David Ocampo

Lucia Preziosi
Eduardo Ramirez
Isabel Rivera
Bryan Rodriguez
Mateo Salinas
Noah Seals
Citlali Silva
Janai Torres
Erik Velazquez
Kayla Ward
Ja’Nya Wilkes
Arlo Yi
Alhan Fayrouz Zahdan

DePaul University Project Leads

Cheryl Bachand, Director, Museum Studies Program and Senior Professional Lecturer, History of Art & Architecture

Laura-Caroline de Lara, Director, DePaul Art Museum

DePaul Art Museum Staff

David Maruzzella, Collection & Exhibition Manager
Ionit Behar, Associate Curator

DePaul University Faculty & Staff, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Cheryl Bachand, Director, Museum Studies Program and Senior Professional Lecturer, History of Art & Architecture

Bill Johnson González, Professor, English & Director, Center for Latino Research 

Margaret Storey, Associate Dean and Professor, History

Joanna Gardner-Huggett, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of History of Art & Architecture

Guillermo Vásquez de Velasco, DeanOffice of the Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Exhibition Website Development & Design


DePaul University John T. Richardson Library Collaborators

Alexis Burson, Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian

Generous financial and in-kind support for this exhibition have been provided by the Vincentian Endowment Fund, Varyer, and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.


Mon–Tue: Closed
Wed–Th: 11 am–7 pm
Fri–Sun: 11 am–5 pm
Free Admission