City

This May Be the Most Iconic Photo from the Philly Protests and Riots

The image was captured by Merion Station-based photographer Sarah Bloom, who tells us the story behind the photo.


police officer standing in front of burning police car during philadelphia riots

A police officer standing in front of a blazing police car during the Philly riots. (Photo by Sarah Bloom)

The last time we told you about Main Line photographer Sarah Bloom, she was taking captivating nude self-portraits in abandoned buildings in Philadelphia. Those photos went viral. These days, Bloom, 50, spends most of her time doing commercial and residential real estate photography.

But on Saturday, as tensions began rising in Philadelphia, Bloom, who lives in Merion Station, decided to bring her 24-year-old daughter into the city to participate in the protest — and to document some of the events using her camera. She came away with the above photo, which might wind up being the most iconic photo from the Philly riots and protests.

Bloom and her daughter started off at the Philadelphia Museum of Art around 2 p.m. and then marched to an area near City Hall. In between, she captured this photo of a man who she says was attempting to remove the Israeli flag from its pole on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Photo by Sarah Bloom

“People were yelling, ‘Free Palestine!'” she recalls. “Nobody could reach it, though. And then some police came over and just said to get down. And they couldn’t reach it anyway. So they just moved on.”

After City Hall, the group moved north to the Vine Street Expressway. That’s where Bloom says she first noticed a very large police presence and mounting tensions.

A group of people climbed on top of a police vehicle and were jumping on it, says Bloom.

And then, the car was set ablaze. Bloom says that there was originally a white cop standing in front of the car while it became engulfed in flames. But then the white cop was suddenly switched out with a black cop.

“I can’t say what happened there, but I bet that they intentionally put that black cop there,” Bloom says. “And I got an epic shot.”

Bloom and her daughter returned home before nightfall. Since then, she says she’s seeing too many posts from people complaining about the looting.

“All of the social media is filled with these pearl-clutching posts about the looters and how awful they are,” she observes. “But you know what? We all just need to shut the hell up. No, looting isn’t going to change a thing about police brutality, but obviously there is a line connecting these things. You combine police brutality with a pandemic and poverty and poor communities being disproportionately affected by this disease and by racism. You put all these things together and you cap it off with the brutal murder of a black man — watching him die for nine fucking minutes. Honestly, I’m surprised it’s not worse.”

Some more photos from Bloom on Saturday: