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.