This photograph is a chance shot taken whilst visiting London in 2019.
My London photographs had been sitting on a memory card for over a year,
forgotten – it was only the adverts for the National PJ competition that encouraged me to go digging for the images.
While my wife was serially abusing the credit card in the West End department stores, I decided to remain outside and enjoy the rare British sunshine.
Suddenly, a large protest crowd approached – primarily young people and students from Hong Kong.
The protest crowd extended the entire length of Oxford and Bond Streets.
The protesters were angry about the current political situation with China in their homeland.
With my camera already slung over my shoulder, I decided to take some photographs as the crowds passed.
After a few warm-up shots, I became increasingly involved, mingling with the protesters and using my feet to take close-up shots with a fixed focal 35mm lens.
This particular photograph catches the moment’s mood with
the focal point on the protester’s eyes and distinctive mask.
The protest banners and surrounding crowds give context and show the intensity of the situation.
There are also lessons to be gained from this kind of street photography.
While this may have been a break from tedious shopping and camera fun for me, it was certainly not the case for the protesters.
They were wearing masks and dark sunglasses for a reason – they didn’t want to be recognised.
The protesters were observed, photographed and filmed by anonymous people (not tourists or passers-by) in the background. The students likely feared possible reprisals and consequences in their homeland.
Despite my actions, I would generally advise photographers to avoid or keep a distance from political protests, unless working in a professional capacity or have experience in such situations.
The Hong Kong protest was a peaceful, controlled event in London. However, I lived for many years in Southeast Asia,
and I can personally testify to seemingly peaceful and friendly protests suddenly escalating
and turning very nasty and violent. Use your common sense, particularly when travelling overseas.
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