When I first met the wonderful Helen Sloan, she told me that all photographers are creeps. I was a bit taken aback, but she’s right - photographers want to see without being seen, to capture things that wouldn’t necessarily happen if people were aware that we’re there, quietly shooting away. Just as when this sleeping man caught my eye at Le 104 the other day, though I was quickly outcreeped by his girlfriend Agathe, who snuck in for a close-up. She’s also a photographer, of course.
I got some concerned calls from friends and family in Ireland when they saw I was out taking photographs at the Gilet Jaunes protests. I assured them I was fine, having learned a valuable life lesson during my first ever riot*.
The current protests also remind me of attending a much quieter riot during the winter of 2011 in New York.
And of going to the May Day riots in Berlin, which turned out to be a very civilised affair.
*I was seventeen and had just started taking photographs when I went my first riot, which kicked off during a squatter’s protest in Nørrebro, Copenhagen. Unfortunately I didn’t get any good pictures - after a few hours hanging around in case something happened, when it actually did I was too busy running down a narrow city street as fast as I could from a terrifying wall of charging police, equipped with dogs and waving long mahogany batons. I didn’t have a press card, but even if I had it would have made absolutely no difference - they were determined to pacify everyone on the street with extreme force, no matter who they were. So my top riot tip is this: in a riot, stay as far away as possible from the people who are most likely to hurt you, and those people are probably the police.
My book of New York photos is available online. Limited-edition prints from the book are available for purchase at The Copper House Gallery in Dublin. You can see a piece I did on New York for Narratively here.
…well, it was when I took these photographs during Act VIII. There was an escalation of violence last week, but so far today’s protests (Act IXX) have been a lot calmer. A lot of people here feel it’s time to give it a rest, and XX is such a nice round number…