Saturday was an important day to show solidarity and try to capture the moments of the Women's March movement. I was glad to be a part of it but I had no idea just how much energy this would require until I actually got there...
It's one thing to be a part of the demonstration and to stand with those with a significant message to say, it's another to do so while walking and trying to capture the event using both stills and video.
Imagine a photographer having to capture his own wedding and try to take part in all the festivities, while trying to use Facebook live to share the event with those who want to see it as it happens. I mean, it's not too hard to fathom as our insatiable lust for media consumption is just that real these days folks.
I wasn't on assignment, but to be honest, when you're at something like this, it's hard to shut off your mind from always being in documentation mode.
I mean just because you're not being paid to do something, doesn't mean that you shouldn't use available opportunities to learn more about yourself, hone your craft, and improve problem-solving skills. This is why, even though it was such an exhausting event, I still felt that I was able to come away with something that was both beneficial to myself and to others.
My takeaway from documenting the event: Judging from what I think is underwhelming stills and footage (because I know that I can shoot better than this,) I learned that splitting your focus between two mediums can split the quality you come away with. If you decide to shoot video, then just shoot video. If you decide to shoot stills then just shoot stills.
If you are overly ambitious (stubborn) as I am and decide to do both anyway, at least go in with an idea of what you want to accomplish. I usually don't do this as sometimes inspiration happens on the spot, but don't risk it if you know you have to deliver. Understand when you've got enough images and frames to tell the story you want to tell and use the rest of the time to enjoy the moment.
Get more than 3hrs of sleep the night before an event.
I wanted this post to be simply about my experience at an event, but as I kept writing it went from simply sharing images to sharing a message that surpasses the actual media itself. A fine example of how you can go into something with one set of ideas but completely come out the other side with a new understanding. Hopefully this theme of adaptation and openness to new ideas as they present themselves will go beyond this page and rub off on places in the world where it could really be beneficial.
Above are the snaps I took from the event and below is the video I managed to put together with the random clips I captured throughout the day.
Scenes from the Toronto Women's March on January 21, 2017. 12:00 pm at Queen's Park. A peaceful march in solidarity with the Women's March on Washington.
First off, apologies for the lack of updates but since being back from shooting in Germany, I’ve needed to recharge my batteries (both literally and figuratively). Shooting 12hr days for 12days straight kinda takes a lot of physical/mental energy as does going through close to 4800 images and figuring out ways to organize them into smaller stories that are easier to share… like this one.
These shots were taken from my 4th day in Germany (July 25th, 2015), after traveling from Cologne to Berlin and only having been in the city for less than 2hrs.
I needed a warm up to start my shooting day and this random Kurdish protest march that appeared out of nowhere was pretty much the ticket I needed to really get right in there and shoot strangers on the street.
It was also one way to potentially get into a lot of trouble if things turned ugly …but anything to get the shot I suppose.
Now, I’m not a photojournalist, far from it in fact. I think there are significant differences between photojournalism and street photography and without boring you on the particulars, here’s a link to something I just googled that pretty much sums up what I believe so it saves me from having to paraphrase the article (aka I’m lazy to summarize) so here:
(just be sure to come back to what I’m writing here if you start venturing off to the land of external links;)
I’d hate to give the impression that I’m using someone else’s cause for my own personal gain but when an opportunity arises to get unique vantage points (like shooting from the middle of the street to get a wider POV of the storefronts in Berlin) then I’ll take it. I’ll just link to another article of what the protest is about HERE for anyone who wants to know more about it. #KarmaRestored
Interesting how sometimes you find yourself taking similar shots at different times and with different people. Kinda says something about what catches your eye by default. Personally, I’d like to say that “it’s a testament to my consistency” *Ahem-bullshit-ahem*
Aside from great pockets of light I was able to stand on a raised median platform in the middle of the street that offered a higher perspective. Then I was told that I couldn’t walk on there as a precaution to avoid upsetting the police who could book me for destruction of public property if I kept trampling over their flowerbed.
The police also had their own video guy to ensure their side of the story just in case things went ugly and the media (who I pretended to be a part of) were to try and twist things around. Honestly, I have no idea if that’s even the case here. I mean he could just be an officer who was excited to try out his new Sony 4k ActionCam.
Naturally, these types of events have people curious, so a ton of people could be seen from the streets looking out their windows/balconies and pouring out from storefronts to figure out what was going on. Also, it was a nice day so there’s that.
With the veil of being a “part of the media,” it was much easier to get in front of people and grab shots like these.
It was a great way to feel people out in how they’d react to having a camera on them, considering the right to privacy laws in Germany. I mean this was one of the reasons why I went there to shoot my project - to see how tough street photography is in a country that has strict rules regarding posting photos taken in public without consent. *here’s hoping I have some sort of “Canadian Immunity” for posting these while in North America*
Clearly you had some people who had suspicious glares whenever the camera was brought up to my face, but if you’re marching in a public protest, chances are, there’s gonna be cameras around. Still, I had no confrontations at all while shooting this event.
I honestly didn’t want to be restricted to boring shots of people silhouetted from behind.
So I resorted to boring shots of people in the front instead ;)
There were times when I wanted to find creative ways to obscure people’s identities but there were way too many people for that to have worked effectively.
I also wanted to push my luck and see if I’d get any negative reactions if I started to use flash but still, everyone was ‘ok’ with me going about and shooting as I normally do.
The police presence was heavy but everyone seemed to keep a cool head and luckily the only snag I witnessed was interrupting rush hour traffic.
Even though there were pockets where there was no light at all, Berlin had really colourful buildings that provided enough of an interesting backdrop for some of my shots.
As with any other protest, there’s a ton of flag waving/wearing and the toughest part was trying to not get so many posts sticking out of people’s heads. Having to get right in there and bob/weave to line up my subjects was something I’d have never been able to do cold turkey. Really glad I got to get a decent warm up earlier on in the March.
There were times during the entire trip that I wished I could just take off my shoes ‘cause my feet were killing me from all the walking, but at one point I just said, “screw it” and I ended up walking in my socks - but that’s a story for another time.
There came a point where I took enough twists and turns while blindly following the crowd to conclude that I had no idea where I was anymore. I decided that instead of spending so much time at this march, I should actually go and shoot some street while the light was still good. Also I had no idea what I was even going to do with these shots except share them as some sub-story on facebook or something. Kinda glad I was able to put something together here on tumblr to let you guys know that I’m still around and stuff ;)
At the end of it all, I just wanted to go back to exploring Berlin and as fun as it was playing photojournalist for an hour and a half, I really wanted to to focus on my “Anonymous” project which I hope to finally curate into something by the end of the year. There’s enough images collecting virtual dust on my hard drive and it’s a big weight off my shoulders to at least share this set of images with all of you patient people.