When history unfolds photographers are there to document the events. I am not just talking about photographers who are employed by media organizations. I am talking about about shooters like you. When visual testimony of historic events is being recorded by a photographer who is there on assignment his first responsibility is to please the client which is in most cases is a large news corporation which at it’s core leans towards some kind of agenda.
News Distributors. photo by Sasha Gitin, Zuccotti Park October 17th 2011
Nowadays news is no longer owned by powerful corporations but is produced by individuals and can be distributed through twitter and other social media platforms. Bits and pieces of self published information create the big picture. Self published news is often more accurate, more recent and more honest than those produced by mainstream media and ironically big news organizations are tuning to twitter or facebook to get their content. Never before in history photographers had a chance to distribute their images to the masses without being affiliated to any kind of organization. Now you can if your image tells a story and is relevant, it will be shared with the world instantly.
Human Microphone. photo by Sasha Gitin, Zuccotti Park October 17th 2011
Yesterday, on my way home after a studio shoot I decided to stop by wall street and see what Occupy Wall Street was all about. My intention was not to go there to photograph the event but simply to satisfy my own curiosity.
TIP : Always set the exposure before before even seeing your shot. If you are not sure what lighting conditions are going to be at location set your camera to automatic mode based on your needs. This way you will not miss your first shot.
Kids Talk, Wise Men Listen. photo by Sasha Gitin, Zuccotti Park October 17th 2011
It was past 7pm and the sun was long gone. I figured that at the park the lighting is going to be similar to what it is anywhere else on the streets. The exposure I set to: Shutter speed of 1/80 sec (just enough for me to avoid motion blur) f-stop set to f-1.8. I new I would have to be very careful with focus. At f-1.8 there is no room for error. ISO was set to 3200. It’s higher then I would like it to be but I am not against grain and at night that is the only way you can get away without using flash.
That day, on October 17th 2011, Occupy Wall Street protest had its one month anniversary. As most of us, I have heard about this protest on the radio and read about in newspapers and online and have seen bits of photos and video clips here and there (I threw away my TV about 10 years ago so television is not my source of information). Based on all that information I had a picture in my mind what the protest is about. However that picture turned out to be very different from reality. I thought that the whole downtown was blocked and everyday day life was completely disturbed. To my surprise there were no signs of distress anywhere in wall street area. Only when I approached the Zuccotti Park some out of ordinary activity was happening even though it seemed quite mild. The park, which is really tiny by the way, at first glance looked like a community of homeless people.
I have seen many camp-in protests in Mexico City and Oaxaca and those protests in Mexico had a very sophisticated shelters and everything was very well organized and coordinated. Americans are definitely amateurs when it comes to organizing protests especially when compared to the third world countries, but it seems that we are catching up pretty fast. When I came close to the corner of the park where speaking was taking place the energy began to feel very vibrant and surprisingly pleasant.I felt that I was back in 1917 in Tzar Russia on the verge of Socialist Revolution. However the rhetoric was not communist at all, just the energy and details had a strong suggestion that we are set 100 years ago. No amplified sound, pamphlets are being distributed , hand made signs and the presence of a tribe that gathered together to stand up against what they believe is wrong. There is no surprise why media correspondents returned from their assignment not being sure what the message of this protest is. The one message was not there. It was very personal everyone protested whatever they felt needed to be protested. Everyone had his own message.
Meditation. photo by Sasha Gitin, Zuccotti Park October 17th 2011
The phenomenal thing is that everyone who had a message was given a voice. If you wanted to speak you had a chance to express yourself and your message was amplified by others around you and repeated farther to the middle of the park and picked up and send all the way to the back. But it didn’t stop there it was instantly send to twitter, facebook, blogs… One little person speaking out his feeling was instantly heard my millions.
Protester. photo by Sasha Gitin, Zuccotti Park October 17th 2011
Numerous photographers covered the event, but none of them had a press pass hanging on their necks. They were there because they wanted to be there. They wanted to document this unique happening and share it with others. One photographer drew my attention. The photographer was a girl in her twenties. She wore military pants and a ragged vest, untamed curly hair and bright spark of energy in her eyes. She had 3 camera bodies, with long , medium and wide lenses, she had two speed lights and bunch of other gear. She worked very confidently handing her equipment as she was born with it. It seemed that if she was taken off from Zuccotti Park and placed to Afghanistan she would not feel the difference or any discomfort, she seemed to be ready for any action on any terrain. She was not in rush to capture what stood out, it seemed that she was planing to cover the protest for entire night and possibly all other days to come, she moved around slowly and shooting when the time was right.
TIP: If you are planing to capture great photographs give yourself a fair amount of time. And be patient.
Careful Now. photo by Sasha Gitin, Zuccotti Park October 17th 2011
I had my low-key camera hanging on my shoulder. 50mm lens makes the camera to appear non-intimidating. I moved towards the front and became one with the crowd it felt incredibly good to take a part of being a human microphone. It felt awkward at first. The words I was repeating were not slogans just communication of thoughts and feelings passing through people and making connections. I have never experienced anything close to that, it was very unique and inspiring. I occasionally drew camera to my eye capturing moments and trying to comprehend this experience.
In your opinion should photographer try to express his own point of view when taking images or stay purely neutral and simply document the events?
Please share your thought and comments and images below.