What attracted me most about the New York Lens blog video showing New York Times photographer Ozier Muhammad taking photographs at the People’s Climate March in New York was that it was showing another photographer working the kind of event that I often cover, though perhaps everything in London is on a slightly smaller scale.
It’s a shame that the video covering the Climate March when I saw it was preceded by an advert for Shell, one of the major companies responsible for climate change, and according to the Greenpeace petition “increasingly desperate to plunder the Arctic in any way possible. It has recently made a deal with the devil: partnering with Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom to access the Arctic through Russia. If this joint venture continues, an Arctic oil spill is practically inevitable.” The petition as I write has 6,177,332 signatures from around the world and is hoping to reach 10 million. The video has them trying to make them look as if they are trying to save the environment, a prime example of ‘greenwash‘.
NYT videographer Deborah Acosta followed Muhammad who talks about how he works, mainly using a couple of digital Leicas but also a Canon with a very large zoom. I got the impression that neither of the Leicas had a particularly wide lens, and he seemed to like to work from a rather greater distance than I do, with perhaps rather less interaction with the people he was photographing, at least while he was taking pictures, though he was shown taking down some details from them after having made the picture, something I seldom need to do. As a photographer I would like to have seen more detail, but doubtless sharp eyed Leicaphiles will identify cameras and lenses in use.
I was also surprised at the amount of space there was inside the protest. At the London People’s Climate March things were considerably more crowded when I was photographing it.
Also surprising was that the event was covered for the NY Times by “upwards of 5 photographers” – and its perhaps not surprising that given so many of them around trying to file work he had problems. Although there were a lot of photographers covering the London event, I think the vast majority were freelances, and I think our media didn’t really consider the march as a major event. Except for the involvement of a few celebrities I doubt if any of our newspapers would have sent a single photographer.
It’s perhaps a shame that so much of the video is taken up with the problems of transmitting images and meeting deadlines, and I would have liked to see more of him at work, hear more of his comments about his approach and see more of his pictures from the day. You can see more of his work from elsewhere on his own web site, but not those from this protest. There is some fine work from the NATO protest in Chicago as well as other events around the world that he has covered in his more than three decades as a photojournalist.
I’ll write more later about my own work on the People’s Climate March in London, but for the moment here is just one image that perhaps shows a rather different view of what it is like to work at such an event – and taking the kind of pictures that our press are much more likely to publish than Muhammad’s more thoughtful work.
Not one of my best pictures – from the People’s Climate March in London. Nikon D700, 16mm
I didn’t go there to photograph this kind of thing, but I was there and thought that I might as well do it. It certainly isn’t one of the best images I made that day, and I had a very limited time as I had another event I strongly wanted to photograph and had to leave shortly after the march began.