At the end of June, Jill Mumie moved from her home in Collingswood to Charlottesville, Va., for love. After all, Virginia is for lovers.
But it is a photo of hate — and one man’s response to it — that has brought Mumie, 42, national attention.
Mumie, who worked as a server for the last five years at the Stephen Starr restaurant Talula’s Garden in Society Hill, snapped a photograph on July 8 in Charlottesville that depicts a black police officer, his head down and hands clasped, standing guard at a Ku Klux Klan rally where men gave Nazi salutes, carried a Confederate flag, and wore Klan hoods.
In an interview Monday evening, Mumie said she studied art at Drew University in North Jersey and has done studio art, wedding photography and some photojournalism. What moves her about photography, she said, is the idea that a photograph creates something timeless, but also immediate.
“And it’s probably the most widely used and accessible way to document life right now,” she said.
Mumie said she moved to Charlottesville to be closer to her boyfriend. She had been in town for less than two weeks when the July 8 rally happened.
The reason for that rally was the same as last weekend’s protest — groups chanted Nazi slogans, displayed swastikas and carried KKK signs to object to the removal of a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
After attending a unity meditation prior to the rally, Mumie walked over alone.
“I knew I wanted to be present for this because it was so foreign to me, the whole idea of it,” she said. “I think when you’re from the Northeast it can feel like you’re living in this more liberal era, that the KKK doesn’t exist anymore. But it does, with a fury.”
She remembers how cool and collected the officer in the photo, identified by Time as Darius Nash, was that day, despite the “bowl of hot sauce hate being hurled at him” from the protesters behind, she said.
“I looked at him and thought ‘I’m not going to leave,'” she said. “I needed to be there to bear witness.”
Mumie called the experience “surreal.”
“I was thinking of how absurd it really was,” she said. “You have a black officer guarding and protecting their right to hate.”
Mumie said when she saw the image later, she thought of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s message, “When they go low, we go high.”
“I feel that’s what this was,” Mumie said.
Mumie’s friends alerted her that the photograph she posted to Instagram had gone viral. Several people have suggested that she should submit the photo for a Pulitzer Prize.
“I am really humbled by that thought,” she said. “But it was really Officer Nash and myself and all the counter-protesters who created this photograph together.”