I was waiting for the demo to start in front of the House of Commons. It was March 2006 and once again a large crowd turned-up to oppose Blair’s war in Iraq. The message of the day was “Bring the Troops Back Home”.I brought my brand new SLR camera – Nikon D50 – to a demo for the first time.
As always, these marches do not start on time. Then something clicked in my mind. “Why stay here? Go to the head and take pictures there”. I quickly made my way through the crowd.
At the head, there was no restriction whatsoever. I was not asked to show my ID (which I don’t have) by the police or the organisers. Once the demo started, stewards from Stop the War Coalition set-up a human barrier (photo above right) to stop the photographers and camera crew from delaying the march (rightly so). But you could just slip inside and take pictures.
Since that day, I have always been at the head of demonstrations that I joined – always. You get to know some others and become friendly. We exchange information and keep each other up-to-date with any last minute changes of plans. I know one photo journalist from TSSA. Surely there are many more from unions.
I have friends and colleagues in many different countries and I feel somewhat obliged to inform them what is going on at my end. Digital photography and internet make it possible instantly. For example, the Euro-demo against austerity cuts in September 2010 organised by the ETUC was not at all featured in America and I had a few people thanking me from the States for showing them photos from Brussels where the demo took place.
In a nutshell, this is a challenge that I enjoy. I am nobody in the crowd. They don’t care who you are. All it matters is the quality of your photography and the message that you deliver or else you are wasting your time. There is no re-trys.
Surely, you may end-up with a few nice ones each time but with the technology advanced so much nowadays, anyone can do that. To capture a scene in the way you wanted to, as you saw it when you pressed the shutter button is not easy.
I’ve been doing this, in my spare time, for almost five years and it is something that I will continue. One good news is that I may get a small freelancing job from independent media in Japan. I would doubt very much that a day will ever come when photo journalism will take-over my bread-earning job but it is good to start your new year with something that you could look forward to!