Protests are interesting to photograph. What makes it interesting is the power of feeling. People are protesting because they feel strongly. They are angry, righteous, impassioned. That can makes for strong photographs.
I took this outside the UK Home Office building in Cardiff a few months ago, at the height of Nigel Farage / UKIP media coverage. The protesters invited me to photograph them and cooperated in their stance of holding the banner before hiding their faces.
Lately I was enjoying a glamorous Boots meal deal Saturday lunch with m’ lady (she’s in it for the perks). We were sitting in the small, pretty Cardiff garden overlooked by the Hilton Hotel. We could see and hear lots of people heading via the underpass to what sounded like a mass congregation by City Hall and I assumed – perhaps stupidly – that it was a religious Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan. Only when the chanting grew louder and the masses of people began to swarm adjacent to the park did their chants become clearer.
It was a Palestine solidarity protest – many of which were taking place across Europe that day. And there were lots of people. My trusty ever-present Canon 5D II and 50mm f1.8 lens in my backpack, I downed the Sushi and Kindle, apologised to m’ lady, hauled myself up a nearby wall, swung my legs over and found myself right at the start of the protest. It was worth a few clicks.
However, following those I attempted to think differently. Get high. Get a neat, novel perspective showing the volume of people. I hastily made a vantage point within Cardiff Castle but made my point just as the majority had passed, getting nothing very good amongst the back-end stragglers. Then I caught up with the march and decided to try and get high within Cardiff Central Library. Not only did the same thing happen, but by doing so I must have missed by seconds the major newsworthy event of ‘revellers’ on the city’s Mill Lane deciding they wanted to fight and throw chairs at the protesters.
This was what the local media led on when reporting the event. Not Cardiff’s finest moment.
With the big NATO summit at Celtic Manor in Newport next month and a number of functions in Cardiff, more protests are planned in the city. It’s possible I’ll try vying for a shot or two, but these things are magnets for all photographers. Getting paid or even receiving any meaningful acknowledgement as a freelancer for such shots remains really tough to accomplish.
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