Capturing scenes similar to the photo below can and will become second nature, your brain will take over triggering muscle memory bringing the camera up to eye level, compose, shoot and move whilst constantly observing the unfolding scene before you to capture the next moment, and street or documentary photography is filled with these types of moments.
Photographing protests can be a fast paced environment with constantly changing light and very little time to review the images you have captured. The photo below is one of those little gems that wasn’t realised until the memory cards had been downloaded and edited. This can at times, feel as though the scene is being viewed for the very first time resulting in an ‘Oh My’ moment.
This leaves me to ask, what did I see that caused muscle memory to take over and capture the scene. Was it the way the young lady is holding the sign and didn’t even look in my direction or is it something else.
Maybe she is being silently judged by the older woman over her right shoulder or the young woman further back who is also looking on in the same direction.
Every photo is open to interpretation by the viewer and there has been some of that on my behalf, the older woman could have been looking at me taking the photo!
I’m curious, what do you see?
Until next time, happy shooting
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this blog post/website may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.
Australia day is celebrated on the 26th of January with a National public holiday, many Australians go to the beach, cook barbecues, play backyard cricket, watch fireworks and generally enjoy themselves, but there are also protests by Australia’s First Nations people who call the day ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Survival Day’. These protests occur every Australia day, in every Australian Capital city and are growing in not only numbers, but also growing louder every year.
Trying to tell this story with words was not only difficult due to the amount of emotion and politics surrounding the day forcing me to procrastinate over what I had written. After several days I came to the conclusion that a story can be told through the power of a single photo, and there are thousands of powerful photos out there. One photo that immediately comes to mind is ‘Tank Man‘ (Jeff Widener, 1986) who attempted to stop tanks leaving Tiananmen Square by standing in their path. That single photo told a story to the world of a lone man standing up against something bigger than him and believing in it enough to risk his life. With that in mind, (and no more procrastinating) I’ll let the photos do the storytelling and leave the emotional and political charged comments to others.
A proud Indigenous woman stares down the barrel of a TV camera
I am interested to hear your thoughts on how you photograph difficult situations including those that may have emotions attached to them and how you overcame those challenges.
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Until next time, Happy Shooting
Firstly, your safety is paramount. If any protest or protesters become violent towards you or others, including the police interacting with protesters, leave. Your safety is more important and must have a higher value than any photo you take and your safety always come first. No photo is worth you being injured or hurt.
Travelling, mainly for work, I had decided that the photos taken during my trip would be to show my family the famous sights of London with no intention of sharing, so I was surprised to stumble across a what looked like a protest, a peaceful protest, on a bridge, a famous bridge (Westminister Bridge) in London. What an opportunity!
Pushing through the crowds trying to get a feel of what the protest was about I found that there were plenty of photographic opportunities with good light and everyone seemed pretty happy, might be the whacky weed that was in the air, to have their photos taken.
Some people will struggle with my next comment, I selected Auto on my camera and started shooting. Why not? Camera companies spend millions of dollars developing incredibly small computers and sensors to work everything out so why not select auto.
Documentary and street photography are genres that I have always been attracted to, I find them to be challenging as you have little to no control of what is about to happen and how you capture those moments can be a challenge in itself. Ultimately you want people to feel connected to your images and to possibly inspire them in some small way.
Please remember, if you do decide to photograph a protest, remember your safety must come first over any photo opportunities.