Photographers' Blog

The most wanted photograph in China

Jinan, China

By Carlos Barria

As the morning approached, reporters, photographers and cameramen from national and foreign media organizations gathered outside the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court to cover the final chapter in the trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai.

The stage for this story was Jinan, in the northeastern coastal province of Shandong. This story had all the elements of a great thriller: power, corruption, romance and murder. With no access to the courtroom itself, the foreign media and the general public relied on images provided by the court for glimpses of the trial. Also, for the first time China’s judicial system provided court transcripts, published on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

The opportunities for photographing Bo Xilai stood at about zero. Authorities only allowed media to stake out the courthouse from a fenced area across the street, and even there we had to go through a security scan to get in. Some journalists complained that during the first morning of the trial police denied them movement in and out of this area to cover protests that were going on nearby.

With little room to move, photographers started to think about how to photograph Bo, who hadn’t been seen since March of 2012 during a political event. The only chance we could see was his arrival to and exit from the court. But all the vehicles coming and going from the building used tinted glass.

There is a way to take a picture through tinted glass using a flash and holding the camera right against the window, but considering the tight security around the convoy, that seemed impossible. So the last resort was to shoot with a zoom lens right through the front windshield, which was not tinted.

F8 and be there?

Reuters reports “A Malaysian Muslim woman who will be caned next week for drinking beer has defiantly asked that the punishment be carried out in public in a case that is fuelling debate about tolerance in this multi-racial country. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno will be the first Malaysian woman to be caned under Islamic laws applicable to Malaysia’s Muslims, who account for 60 percent of the 27-million population.”

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno chats with her son (R) Muhammad Azfar, 7, and daughter Wann Kaitlynn Sari Dewi, 5, at her father’s house in Sungei Siput, about 300km (186 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia’s state of Perak, August 21, 2009.  REUTERS/Zainal Abd Halim

If Kartika is caned in public would you as a photographer (if it were up to you decide) go to the event and take pictures of this mother of two being beaten? And if you did how would you shoot those pictures, wide and in close, so close you could hear the crack of the cane on her body and hear her cries of pain? On a longer lens from a distance, more detached as a person but shooting tight pictures that you know will give the viewer every painful detail of the punishment? Or, finally, from a distance on a wide lens to show the crowd surrounding the scene? And once you have shot those images how will you edit? Would you sanitise them and not file the pictures that show Kartika suffering the most or would you feel that everyone should see what you had photographed, knowing that a morning daily family paper may not even use that image?

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