Photographers' Blog

Gloves off for political brawl

August 3, 2010

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators scuffle with ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators (top) at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei July 8, 2010. Taiwan legislators threw objects, splashed water and kicked one another on Thursday, sending two to the hospital in a brawl over how fast to ratify a trade pact with China that is shaping up as a pivotal election issue.   REUTERS/Nicky Loh

Legislators throwing objects, splashing water and kicking one another inside the parliament is probably one of the most interesting yet bizarre news events I’ve covered during my stint in Taiwan. Seeing grown men in suits going at each other like children, yelling and even laughing as if it was all sport, is not something you would expect to see every day.

In fact, everybody in the Taiwan media knew that the opposition DPP were going to clash with the ruling KMT party lawmakers. It was just a matter of how and when. A fellow local photographer told me that the fighting between the parties only happens when lawmakers need to send a message to the public through the media. You could even say that lawmakers act out violence to get some publicity from the media, though some of them really do get hurt in the process.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators scuffle with ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators (top) at the Legislative Yuan In Taipei July 8, 2010.    REUTERS/Nicky LohThe root reason for the fighting stems from tensions between the two biggest political parties in Taiwan – the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the ruling Nationalist (KMT) Party, which is headed by the China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou. The cause of the brawl this time? Disagreements on how the recently signed Taiwan-China cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) should be reviewed.

The KMT government has hailed the ECFA, saying it would bolster Taiwan’s economy, but the opposition claims it would jeopardize Taiwan’s sovereignty and make the country too economically dependent on China.

The whole session started harmlessly with opposition lawmakers shouting slogans as the ruling party’s founder Sun Yat-sen glared down at them from a giant wall portrait. Shortly afterward, they were not contented with just shouting and started climbing onto the packed podium to try to stop the head of parliament from speaking.

Things started getting messy with many pictures to shoot because there was shoving and punching happening everywhere in the cavernous auditorium and it was hard to observe every single thing through a viewfinder.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators scuffle with ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators (top) at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei July 8, 2010.   REUTERS/Nicky Loh

When things got heated, I realized that I got a bit flustered too with my snapping. I had to take a step back and remind myself to calm down so that I would not just blindly snap away with a fast camera. I took pride in believing that anyone can snap, but it takes a professional to recognize and get the right news picture.

With a little bit of luck and skill, I got a few frames of an opposition DPP lawmaker who managed to make it to the top of the podium only to be pushed from a great height down to the ground again. This moment happened in just a split second but fortunately I captured it and from the correct angle too! The competition were all shooting from the left side of the hall so their shots were not ideal as they were shooting the back of the subject’s head during the fall.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Kuo Wen-chen falls off the podium while scuffling with ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei July 8, 2010.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The reason why I chose to shoot from the center and not from the left side, where all the other local and wire photographers were, was simple. I knew that all the 20 photographers present would be shooting it from that angle and getting the same pictures.

It was a calculated risk. I wanted to get a different perspective and if I had really screwed up, I still had the security of picking up any significant pictures from the local photographers on the left. In fact, I was a bit puzzled why no other photographers chose the center position that I shot from. At the end of the day, when we try something different, we might just earn ourselves a little luck from the process.

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