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Informing Contexts - Responses & Responsibility

During this weeks module we have been considering both the responses and responsibility that photographers have and how they can employ their powers of persuasion when capturing images, especially of significant or historic events.

Having watched this week's lecture early on a Sunday morning my mind was starting to consider images that have stood out to me over the years, many coming back to me. However my thoughts were interrupted as I switched the breakfast news on and was faced with the following image.

Following the disappearance and subsequent murder of Sarah Everard a vigil had been organised around a bandstand in Clapham Common, where many hundreds of tributes and flowers had been laid in memory of her. The background to this being unusual in that the UK remains in lockdown and social gatherings being discouraged at the present time and therefore concerns were raised in terms of the safety of the vigil taking place. However Sarah Everard's murder has raised much greater concerns in terms of the safety of women and the fact the man suspected and charged with her murder is a serving police officer. This meant the policing of the vigil would need to be handled sensitively. As can be seen from the huge amount of images and videos that were shared online, the actual approach adopted by the police appears anything but sensitive with four woman arrested and the crowd forceably dispersed.

The reason I have given this context at the outset is because when I consider the above image I am reminded of Guy Debord comments "when the spectacle stops talking about something for three days, it is as if if did not exist" and I wonder how this image and number of similar ones will be viewed in the weeks and months ahead. At the moment my emotions like many others will be raw, with a high amount of shock, how this could have been allowed to happen and will a period of time reduce this shock. I guess to an extent the context of how this image is viewed in the weeks ahead will depend on what action comes as a result of it. Will it prompt changes within the Met Police, will the organisers of the vigil, Reclaim The Streets use it as a springboard to effect the change they want?

When I consider this image from a photography point of view alongside the suggested critical questions I would offer the following observations:

The image is vibrant with the flash of the camera bouncing off the hi-vis jackets of the police and women red hair. Her face lit up almost like she is a caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. Her eyes staring straight back at the camera.

This image has been widely circulated as the main image across many newspapers and online websites today and in the context that it is seen with t film and moving images we can assume she has been arrested due to resisting the officers attempts to disperse the crowd. However there is a degree of assumption here as we do not see hers or the police officers actions immediately before this image was taken.

There is clearly a tense mood captured, the women being clearly held down against her will. It is interesting that she is the only one given an identity here, whilst the image is cropped below the police officers heads. Is this deliberate or just how the angle of the camera was when focusing on her face.

The assumption at this stage, as I do not know the identity of the photographer, is that this has been shot on a mobile phone and is therefore very much in the style of citizen journalism. We must assume this is taken by another attendee who is also in the crowd being dispersed.

The image for me contains a number of elements which when put together really do capture the situation. There is the obvious fact that the women is being held down by the police but is this not a metaphor for the much bigger question and struggles that are being posed by the Reclaim The Streets movement. The fact she is also wearing a face mask gives this a real context of it being very current and relevant to life in Britain today.

As highlighted above I am conscious that I am focusing on an image that has literally been taken in the last 24 hours, as opposed an historic or iconic image that has had time to be seen, viewed and had it's context shifted by time. I will be intrigued to look back on this post in the coming weeks to see how this image has been viewed and the impact that it has.


Johnston, H.Z., Chief Political Correspondent | Rosie Kinchen | Magda Ibrahim | Fiona Hamilton, Crime Editor | Neil (n.d.). Met chief Cressida Dick under pressure after police clashes tarnish vigil for Sarah Everard. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Mar. 2021].

Debord, Guy (1994) The Society of the Spectacle, New York:Zone

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