Vigil for Dalian at IPCC

Although I always like to create a series of images that tell the story of any event, sometimes a single image seems to sum up everything, and at Justice for Dalian Atkinson at IPCC at the start of September, I felt this image did.

The placards make fairly clear what the protest was about, although they don’t mention the details of the particular case – Dalian Atkinson, a former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich striker dying after being tasered by police outside his father’s home in Telford on August 15th.

Also missing is any real indication that this protest is taking place outside the IPCC,  the body set up to investigate complaints against the police which many see as compromised with many of its staff being recent former police officers and having a miserable record in so many investigations.

Those who have been to the IPCC might recognise the distinctive foyer behind the figures, but this is an office block shared by a number of organisations, and the IPCC only gets a mention fairly small on the inside wall, virtually impossible to include in pictures.

But it is a background that has a powerful emotional effect, resembling a building going up in flames, bringing memories of images of uprisings such as that which followed the 2011 shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham. The image was made late in the day as light was failing, bringing out the effect of the interior lighting.

Of course it is very much a picture about attitudes, and how these are expressed in body language and facial expressions. It was a situation I saw the potential of and moved to get in what I hoped was the right place to photograph.  It might have been slightly better without the person whose denim jacket intrudes at the left but this isn’t a great problem.

I suspect I have slightly darkened that corner in post-processing to make him less obtrusive, though without going back to the RAW file I can’t be sure. There will also be other minor areas that needed some attention, for example to bring out more clearly the expressions on faces, and that white shirt on the police officer will almost certainly have appeared a little too bright. The camera doesn’t ever record the scene as I saw it, particularly when lighting varies across the subject as in this case.

Things get even worse of course when  you start using flash, but fortunately there was enough light to work without. The image was taken on a Nikon D700 with the 16-35mm lens at 19mm. Using ISO 1600 the exposure was 1/125 at f5.6.

Another picture from the same event adds some more detail about the protest, with a list of a few of the names of those who have died at the hands of the police, as well as a view of the interior of the foyer with a man sitting at the reception desk.

I’d hoped that the third image here would be stronger, but this was made with a much longer focal length – equivalent to 225mm, and at 1/125 f5.6 there wasn’t enough depth of field. It’s surprising given the fairly close focus distance that the lack of depth of field isn’t more apparent, and given the focal length I was fortunate to avoid camera shake. Adding contrast in Lightroom helped, as did increasing sharpness and clarity in some areas, but didn’t quite rescue it – and I think is just a little overdone.

Limited depth of field can also be a good thing, though generally I prefer images that are sharp all over – as my brain usually imagines the scene in front of my eyes. This was made with the 28-200mm lens wide open at 58mm (in DX more – so 87mm equivalent) which gives an aperture of f4.8 and creates (rather fortuitously) what seems to me a pretty ideal balance between the sharp foreground and the slightly soft background.

More pictures at Justice for Dalian Atkinson at IPCC.


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