Monthly Archives: October 2015

photograph as document # 1 – eyewitnesses?

“Find some examples of news stories where ‘citizen journalism’ has exposed or highlighted abuses of power. How do these pictures affect the story, if at all? Are these pictures objective? Can pictures ever be objective?” – Context and Narrative Coursebook

I will use the reporting around the death of the newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson (1) at the demonstrations against the G20 summit in London in April 2009 as my main example here.

On the first of April 2009, there were large demonstrations in London focussed on the start of the second G20 summit which was to take place the next day. Policing of the demonstrations featured “kettling”,where large numbers of people are held within a rigidly maintained police cordon (the image here is of hot water, held – and possibly even brought to boiling point – in a kettle).

Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor, collapsed and died within the cordon. At first there were strong official denials that he had been in contact with the police before he collapsed; indeed papers such as the Evening Standard (2) maintained that, “Police [were] pelted with bricks as they help dying man” – a headline juxtaposed with a standard, wide, illustrative demo shot printed over two pages, taken from behind the police line. This photograph was not taken at either the place or the time that Tomlinson died; instead it was of a later phase of the protests when police cleared a squatter camp in another part of the city. Smoke hangs in the air; the police – outnumbered in the photograph by demonstrators and with their backs to us – ie we are protected from the violence by them – wait, braced against possible violence from the protesters. Continue reading