Syrians on the March

Syrians gathered in Belgrave Square for a noisy protest across the road from the Syrian Embassy for a march to Downing St on the second anniversary of the start of the uprising there, a fight against the Assad regime that gets bloodier and bloodier. In my report¬†Syria – Two Years Fight for Freedom on My London Diary I quote some figures about the numbers killed by the brutal regime which “has so far killed over 70,000 people, injured 320,000, imprisoned 160,000, and caused several million to become refugees inside and outside of Syria.”¬† Syrians feel let down by the international community, which has largely stood back and watched this happen without managing to take any effective action – as I mention, one of the posters “included the question ‘Hey World, How Many Kids Should Be Killed Before You Do Something?'”

The Syrians were protesting in a fairly dense crowd inside a large pen, but unlike some events it was easy to move through and to get to the centre where things were happening. The people want publicity for their cause and a keen for the press to get good pictures, and with a few quiet words and gestures made way for me to move past. Almost everyone – men, women and children – was happy to be photographed, and very friendly. This, unlike some, was a crowd where I felt welcome.

Visually, the many Free Syrian flags often provided some drama – and it is a better flag to photograph than some with its black white and green bands and red stars, whether waved, worn or painted on faces.

The woman on the left in this image saw me taking photographs of hef friend and ruashed forwards to kiss her – this was the second or third frame as she turned round and smiled at me. I showed them the picture and they laughed. Most of the time I was working with the 16-35mm, and there was little room not to be very much in people’s faces, and that big lens (considerably larger than the 18-105mm DX) with its 77mm filter and large lens hood can be rather intimidating, but not I think with this crowd.

Most of the time I was too close to some of the people for flash to be an option, but although the light was fairly even overall – a dull overcast day with still the occasional spot of rain – I needed it for some of the pictures, for example where the face of this man was in shadow against a bright background.

I continued to take pictures for the first quarter mile of so of the march, and left it as the tail end disappeared below my feet into the Hyde Park underpass. Standing above as the march approached I wished I had put the 70-300mm into my camera bag that morning, although I’m not sure I would have made many good pictures.

Views from a height are seldom as interesting as I hope they will be, although probably the main reason I take few now is that climbing up on street furniture and walls is rather a strain for me now, and unless – as in this case – I’m on really solid ground I tend to lose balance and start shaking.

But a longer lens would have got a more compressed view when the march was approaching that would have been full of those flags. Here I used the lens at 66mm (99mm equiv) to take in more or less the whole width of the march, framing to get the banner at the bottom, at right and at top left to the edgies of the image. I rather like that the large banner is part obscured by the three men – two with megaphones – in front. It’s message is still clear and it’s sometimes good to leave a little for the viewer to do. One thing that didn’t quite work for me was that the young girl on her father’s shoulders at the centre of the banner has her held held firmly down – I would have liked her to be looking up at the camera.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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