As you’ve probably heard, there’s going to a protest about US President Donald Trump in London on Friday 13th July. Protests such as this attract legions of street photographers and it can present us with a great opportunity to get some impactful shots. This is likely to be one of the biggest mass protests London has ever seen and will be rich in photo opportunities. However, some caution is needed, as is a planned approach.
If you’re planning to shoot the evening part of the protest, I’ll be holding a free briefing session directly after my City workshop on Friday (around 5pm in a pub near Barbican) – please message me if you’re interested and I’ll send you details. We will discuss street photography perspectives and also safety issues.
- The march starts at 2pm at Portland Place, opposite the BBC. If you fancy shooting in a safer, less frenzied environment, this will be the best part of the day for you.
- Go to Trafalgar Square between 5-7pm for the mass rally.
- Crowdfunding has raised enough money for a giant comical Donald Trump blimp to be flown over the city throughout the day; this should provide some good photo opportunities.
- Later into the evening, when darkness starts to fall and when some alcohol has been consumed, the real trouble could start.
- It has been reported that around 10,000 police officers will be working overtime for the event – a sure signal that trouble is expected.
I have been involved in photographing in hostile environments for many years and have set out a few thoughts which I hope will be helpful . . .
- Travel light: take the minimum gear possible. Don’t flash your latest DSLR and expensive glassware around – instead, take an old compact which you’re not afraid of losing.
- Blend in: don’t dress or behave like a photographer or look ‘out of place’ in any way; ideally wear dark clothing and don’t carry a photographer’s bag (I use a tatty old North Face rucksack). Avoid any clothing or behaviour that may draw attention to yourself.
- Know the geography: ideally, do a recce before the event to familiarise yourself with routes in and out of the event, escape routes and, of course vantage points.
- If things get ‘lively’ and you become worried, position yourself close to police officers.
- Leave any expensive watches, jewellery and other valuables at home. Don’t take anything you can’t afford to lose.
- With such a huge influx of people into the area, you will probably find difficulty in getting mobile phone reception so, if you’re with other people, ensure you have an agreed meeting point in case you lose anyone.
- If challenged when taking someone’s photo, smile, say ‘thank you’ and walk away. Most of the time, this will diffuse the situation.
- Avoid the clichés and the predictable shots. Walk around the fringes of the march and don’t just shoot people with signs. Look for strong emotions and gestures.
- Work quickly and unobtrusively. Use a fixed lens (I’d recommend a prime between 24-50mm) so you don’t waste valuable seconds zooming. If you’re shooting with a cheap compact, as advised above, keep it at the wide end of the zoom range.
- Set your camera to a high ISO (I use 1200 to1600) which will give you a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and avoid blur.
- Try some dramatic, dynamic shots from a very low angle (but watch you don’t get trampled on).
- If you’re shooting people’s faces, be discreet. Going in too close or ‘monstering’ your subjects could provoke an angry reaction.
- To help you focus on producing a meaningful and interesting body of work, treat the day as a ‘project’. Perhaps visualise your set of images in a small book / zine or as a series of framed prints.
- Shoot in monochrome for more of a ‘documentary’ feel.