CONTRIBUTED BY JOSÉ ADLER
A young man clutches a piece of yellow tape that reads “don’t shoot” in bold letters, while blurry protestors march by in the nighttime backdrop of the shot. Two twisting rings with midnight black gemstones, a gift of gratitude for a friend, gracefully balance against each other on a kitchen table. A gleeful 12-year-old girl poses in her living room, getting an at-home photoshoot by her older brother.
From activist photography to kind gestures for close friends and family, José Adler uses art as a way to express appreciation and support for the people around him.
Adler has been passionate about visual arts since he was young. He works with a wide range of art forms, spanning from jewelry making, glass-blowing and constructing armor to activist photography. His self-described primary mediums are photography and metal-work, which he has pursued on his own time and through courses at the high school.
For Adler, photography is about more than just pretty images. It’s about capturing the moment, and in many cases, the movement.
“I really like photographing action, action shots and people; portraits are really fun to do. I’ve gone to a lot of protests during lockdown when there were a bunch of Black Lives Matter protests,” Adler said.
Junior Ellie Jones, an artist and one of Adler’s peers, admires Adler’s dedication and drive to use art as a means of achieving social change.
“I think it’s a really awesome way to use your artistic ability for empowerment,” Jones said.
Adler said he enjoys capturing a wide range of emotions in his shots. Over the summer, he attended “Black Calling,” a music festival to celebrate Black artists and vendors in Brookline.
“I really liked getting to photograph people being happy, doing their thing. There were a lot of singers who were just totally enjoying the whole experience, and it was cool to shoot that,” Adler said.
While Adler said he loves showcasing joy, he also wants the images he takes to accurately represent the emotions and perspectives of their subjects. At Black Lives Matter protests, he thinks it’s necessary to capture the pain and injustice that protestors feel.
“I was photographing people who were visibly upset and angry and fed up with what was happening, which I think is important to document. People are able to be peaceful, but they’re also angry,” Adler said.
Adler said that photography is an essential part of a social movement. He explained that showcasing different viewpoints through images can be powerful.
“I think it’s really important to document social justice. I’m not the only photographer out there taking pictures of protests. It’s important to get different angles of events and people and issues,” Adler said.
Lori Lynn, Adler’s photography teacher at the high school, said that photography is a key part to shedding light on social issues.
“Throughout the history of photography, it’s been used as a means of informing the public and that’s no different today. I think José is seeing the possibilities in that,” Lynn said.
Bringing attention to important issues is something that Adler pursues through other ways besides protests. He’s currently working on a photography project about creating a sense of place, taking photographs of Downtown Crossing to demonstrate the visible economic disparities in that area of Boston.
Adler also uses his photography to show compassion to his loved ones. He takes pictures for his friends’ events when they need it, and even snaps shots of his 12-year-old sister who enjoys modeling for photoshoots.
Differing from photography or activism, Adler’s other artistic passion is more about hands-on creativity. After taking a metals elective, he “fell in love” with metal-working and jewelry making. This spring during the beginning of quarantine, he went so far as to set up a mini workshop in his house, arming himself with culinary torches and assorted gemstones.
Adler spoke about his many projects, marveling at the versatility of metals and the range of each material.
“There’s kind of endless possibilities; I think that’s why I ended up liking it so much. I like doing hands-on projects, and doing things with small details,” Adler said. “It’s sort of sculptural in a sense. There’s so many things you can do. There’s a hundred different styles of things that you can do with metals.”
Jones said that Adler’s empathy and kind personality is a key factor of his artistic expression.
“He’s a very caring person. His art really shows that, especially with his photography, taking pictures of really valuable moments or moments that really can impact someone’s life, like the Black Lives Matter movement. And everyday things, he’ll make a necklace or a ring or something and give it to you as a sign of compassion,” Jones said.
Lynn and Jones said that Adler’s creativity, uniqueness and artistic spirit showcase who he is as a person: compassionate, generous and caring towards others.
“I think José is one of those people who can’t really help being an artist,” Lynn said. “It’s a drive that he has to make things and to share them with people. And the fact that he is a really genuine and compassionate person comes through in the authenticity of his work. He’s the real deal.”
José Adler’s art can be found on his instagram account and his website.