The NYT's Lens blog recently posted a couple of great articles about the photographers who captured the Tienanmen Square protests in 1989. The first offers four riveting oral histories from photographers who captured the "Tank Man" in his moment of defiance, and the second adds a new twist: this amazing image from street level.
Disorder. People fleeing. This was happening as the Tank Man, seemingly so calm, stood in the street. I also think it's interesting that all the men in the photo are wearing — as a commenter on the NYT blog put it — "the same drab clothes." A true illustration of how much has changed in China in the last 20 years.
The Roshomon-like details in all of the photographers' stories are vivid and heartbreaking: "Vehicles were smoldering," "a line of students facing a line of soldiers and a column of tanks," "another volley of shots rang out from where the tanks were, and people began ducking, shrieking, stumbling and running," "some guy in a white shirt runs out in front," "a man waving two plastic shopping bags," "waving his jacket and shopping bag," "remonstrating with the tank driver in an act of defiance," "he then disappeared into the crowd," "the PSB (Public Security Bureau) grabbed him and ran away."
And then what happened?
Charlie Cole: "I then placed the tank roll in a plastic film can and wrapped it in a plastic bag and attached it to the flush chain in the tank of the toilet."Stuart Franklin: "The film was smuggled out in a packet of tea by a French student and delivered to the Magnum office in Paris."Jeff Widener: "I gave all my rolls of film to [someone named] Kurt/Kirk who smuggled it back to the A.P. office in his underwear. The long-haired college kid was wearing a dirty Rambo T‑shirt, shorts and sandals." Arthur Tsang Hin Wah: "A colleague rode over on a bike and picked up the film."And Terril Jones, the reporter who captured the shot at street level: "I never published them, and only showed them to a few friends and fellow reporters."And the rest is history. That keeps unfolding, I guess.