Posts Tagged ‘#blacklivesmatter’

Showing faces II

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

For a rather wider discussion of the issues involved in photographing protests and showing the faces of those taking part, you may like to read On Ethics, The First Amendment, and Photographing Protestors’ Faces by Allen Murabayashi.

It is of course in some respects a very US-centric article, talking about Trump and about the constitution. But I think it makes some of the reasons for the disagreements over the issue clear, and is worth reading.

Murabayashi gives his own opinion in two short paragraphs as the end of the piece:

To me, the real discussion shouldn’t be about the blurring or obscuring of faces, nor gaining consent of a subject. These are tactical choices, and in the U.S. there is simply no expectation of privacy in a public setting.

Instead, we ought to continue to consider how photography is used to portray others (particularly the vulnerable), and whether an image truly advances a story or simply acts as a signifier for the photo we should have taken.

Op cit

The link in the last sentence is to another piece by Murabayashi, The Photographic Phases of Depicting COVID-19, which is also an interesting read.


Black Lives Matter

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

Staines, Surrey, UK. 4th June 2020.

I won’t be going to today’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest at London’s US Embassy though I would like to be there, both to show my support and also to take photographs, and it would be an easy journey for me.

The health risks of attending, though not huge, are greater for me than for most or all those who will be there, as if I were to be infected my life would be at greater risk both because of my age and because I have diabetes. I’m fortunate not to have great problems with diabetes, and I think I lived with it for over 30 years before it was diagnosed as a contributory factor to my heart attack in 2003, and now insulin and a careful diet usually keep it well under control, but it does mean my immune system isn’t too great.

The risks would be quite low. According to one of our leading epidemiologists speaking on the radio yesterday, about 1 in 700 people currently has Covid-19 and is infectious, although they may not be showing any symptoms. The proportion who are infectious in the protest crowd is likely to be rather smaller, as those who do have symptoms will almost certainly stay away. The protest will be taking place outside in a very open area, which will cut down the chance of infection.

The chance of being infected depends on various things. You reduce it by physical distance from an infected person – so if people at protests are able to keep that 2m away from people not in their own social group that helps greatly. If people who have the virus are wearing even simple home-made face masks that greatly reduces their spreading of the virus.

Protesters ‘Take the Knee’ at the side of Staines Town Hall.

Being a photographer is slightly more complicated. In the nature of things you have to move around and thus have a greater chance of coming close to one of that very small number of infected persons present. The moving around also cuts down your chance of always keeping that 2m distance. If you are, like me, someone who likes to get close to those you are photographing, you would be advised to change your way of working, moving perhaps to longer focal lengths. And you would certainly be advised to wear an effective mask when working. Moving around does have the advantage of decreasing the time you are close to any individual, which will also reduce the chance of infection.

The main danger to protesters will almost certainly come from policing. The police seem consistently to fail to observe social distancing and fail to wear face masks, so putting the public at risk. But also they often try to herd protesters into smaller areas where social distancing may be impossible, often to try to keep traffic flowing.

A silent die-in for 8 minutes 46 seconds in the Two Rivers shopping park in the centre of Staines, the time Floyd was restrained by a police officer.

It was probably unwise for me to leave home on Friday to cover a Black Lives Matter protest which I could hear from my window in Staines, particularly as I rushed out unprepared, forgetting to pick up my face mask. Of course I tried to keep at a suitable distance but there were moments when this wasn’t practicable. It was a rather smaller protest, with perhaps a couple of hundred people, not all of whom were wearing face masks either. Rather more of my pictures than usual were made with a short telephoto lens, with my wide-angle used largely for wider views in an attempt to preserve social distance.


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