Empty Pedestals

By Brian Rose

Not long after I photographed Monument Avenue, the city announced that it was taking down all of the Confederate memorials, and in November of 2020 I returned to Monument Avenue to photograph the empty pedestals.

The Jefferson Davis pavilion remained intact, but Vindicatrix was no longer perched on her slender column, Maury and his globe were gone, Stonewall Jackson’s vacant plinth was splattered with paint like a Jackson Pollock, and the colorfully profane graffiti on J.E.B. Stuart’s pedestal was obscured with white paint. Robert E. Lee, however, stood tall, his removal awaiting a court decision, which would eventually come in 2021.

Stonewall Jackson pedestal (left), Jefferson Davis pedestal and pavilion (right)

The summer protests had subsided, the leaves were turning, and the empty pedestals carried a different message with no personages to mock, no heroes to denigrate, and no clear indication of what the future held here or elsewhere in the country.

J.E.B. Stuart pedestal

Donald Trump had lost the election, but remained unbowed atop his own defiled pedestal like Robert E. Lee. Trump was now the new hero of the Lost Cause, determined to carry on. But unlike Lee, he would not surrender at Appomattox.

In November, 2021, Virginia elected Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, as governor, and his first act upon taking office was to ban “inherently divisive concepts” regarding race and American history. The Confederate statues may have been vanquished, but the ghost of the Lost Cause still haunts Monument Avenue.

Robert E. Lee statue

This is the final part of this blog series. Click here for part 1-4.

Born in Virginia, Brian Rose moved to New York City in 1977 where he photographed the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and later participated in a survey of the Financial District, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Rose has since undertaken a number of long-term projects in Europe including documenting the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, the rebuilding of Berlin, and the urban landscape of Amsterdam. In response to the election of Donald Trump in 2016, Rose photographed Atlantic City, the scene of Trump’s bankrupt casinos. He published a blog about this project for the John Adams Institute, called Atlantic City, Forlorn. Click here for his book about Monument Avenue in Richmond. Rose’s images have been collected by the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he has produced nine books.