The Joy of Solidarity—that’s what’s captured in these images of Donaldo Taylor, Tiffany Ford, and Venus Fears; stylists and members of IATSE Local 798. The three learned how to laugh through the challenges of working for the Atlanta Opera during the height of the ongoing pandemic and during their continued struggle for the opera to recognize their union.
While the unionized orchestra musicians ate lobster in a climate-controlled tent, Taylor, Ford, Fears, and others rotated who would bring snacks to nourish them during their long hours of styling wigs, hair, and makeup for the cast of the spring show. While the unionized wardrobe department was being paid time and a half for weekend shows, the stylists worked without health benefits styling maskless performers—all the while, dressed head to toe in PPE and working without running water in the bi-polar April Atlanta weather.
The three of them have been through a lot together and have become close—roasting and teasing each other like siblings or lifelong friends would. So much so that Donaldo couldn’t keep a straight face while I created these spontaneous portraits outside the union hall that afternoon.
On Sunday, I spent time with members of IATSE Local 798 as they prepared banners for a rally that will take place on April 30th. While their votes are impounded, the Hair and Make-up stylists are in limbo until the NLRB rules for a third time on their case. While waiting on a ruling, the stylists have found new work declining offers to return to the opera company for reduced wages and more challenging working conditions and time constraints that did not exist before their unionizing efforts. The Atlanta Opera is now hiring out-of-state stylists. Taylor, Ford, and Fears all expressed a desire to return to the opera and spoke about how special it is to work on live performances. It’s why they continue their advocacy for the rights of workers at the Atlanta Opera.
Yesterday, Eric Blanc tweeted, “Nobody captures the joy of solidarity like @FlyingWithSara” and a photo of ALU President Christian Smalls and AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson together at a rally in Staten Island on April 24th. The phrase, “Joy of Solidarity” immediately inspired me to share these pictures from a project I’m still developing that will document the organizing efforts of IATSE Local 798 and the hair and makeup workers of the Atlanta Opera.