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Finding inspiration to photograph the Denver teacher strike


  • © Sean Cayton / All Rights Reserved
I woke up early one recent morning thinking about the Denver teacher strike. In my head was picture of a teacher at sunrise with sign in hand picketing in front of the school she worked at.

Whenever I have a picture in my head, I pay attention.

After 25 years as a photographer, I literally see the world in pictures. I will often “photograph” in my mind as I roam about the city on errands or picking up my kids from school. I have dozens of award-winning images in my head. I’ve never snapped any of them, but I often wish I had.

It can sometimes be a source of great regret having not taken those pictures — usually stumbling upon an image unexpectedly and wishing I had taken it. So I've learned not to ignore my muse.

Such was the case Tuesday morning. I decided to track down this image I imagined; I grabbed my cameras, kissed my wife goodbye and headed to Denver.

First stop, South High School: Teachers had just started to gather outside the school and discuss their plan for the demonstration. I spent a couple hours photographing teachers as they began picketing and as students arrived for school, even though their teachers were not in class. Eventually, the students came out of the school and joined their teachers in the picket line.

Next stop, East High School: I found a few hundred teachers gathered on East Colfax. As the busy morning traffic passed by dozens of motorists and truckers honked their support.

Final stop, North High School: Students were gathered outside between periods. They began marching in solidarity with their teachers — a powerful moment I’m thankful to have witnessed and photographed.

I may not have found the photograph that I imagined that morning, but I still made pictures that help to tell the story of this historic moment.

Ultimately, making pictures I can show to others is a lot better than living with them stuck in my mind. Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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