Week 4 Reflections

This was the second week of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London. As I had placed a big emphasis on XR for this stage of my project, I needed to get as much work done as possible. 

On Saturday, I was assigned to cover the XR Doctors march from Jubillee Gardens to Trafalgar Square. Once again, difficult conditions. Rain, low clouds, flat, weak light. My camera was getting soaked and at one stage fogged up.

The event started with speeches in Jubillee Gardens, followed by photo ops and then the march started. Several film crews and other photographers were present. The march crossed the Thames and arrived in Trafalgar Square were the doctors gathered on the steps in front of the National Gallery. 110 of the doctors removed their shoes and lined them up on the steps, a memorial to the 110 people who die in the UK every day from the effects of air pollution.

This was a powerful image and a well planned moment by the organisers. After a few more pictures, I went to a pub to; dry out, edit my pictures and upload, have something to eat. I was pleased with the pictures but the lunch was horrible.

A few days later, I searched online to see if my pictures had been picked up by any media. I could not find any that were definitely mine, but I was interested to see that very similar pictures of the doctors’ protest were in the Daily Mail. These were credited to Getty and were obviously taken by one of the other photographers in the group I was part of. It was gratifying to see that he had chosen similar viewpoints and compositions to me.

This venture into photojournalism has proved to be a very valuable experience. It is a long way from my normal landscape practice. Rather than photographing static subjects, here I was photographing highly mobile subjects. Large groups of people in poor conditions and in competition with other photographers and filmmakers. I researched heavily before the events. I looked at a lot of demonstration photography online and tried to work out what sort of pictures I should aim to take. I decided I preferred a focus on individuals and small groups, rather than the mass. However, in practice, this proved to be difficult to adhere to. In some situations, the mass was “the picture”. The fact that 200 doctors were marching was the story and that needed to be conveyed.  My dual brief (MA project work and XR event photographer) did clash to a certain extent. I think I would have come home with a different set of pictures had I been there with a single brief. If I had gone solely for project work, I think I would have produced many more images of small groups and individuals. However, the XR brief called for newsworthy pictures. The fact that pictures which were very similar to mine were published indicates that I understood my brief reasonably well. 

As a photojournalism rookie, I was pleased with my results.