Documentation of protests can severely skew the sentiments of both sides. Media coverage often either downplays the severity of riot crew uses of crowd control tactics or highlights the violent reactions from the protesters. Exposing bias in favor of one side or another in covering a protest can often misinform the public about the reality of a protest.
In the case of Hong Kong's 2014 "Umbrella Protests," various types photographers took either own unique approaches on documenting the protests. A largely peaceful protest that used art as a driving source of propaganda, each of the three photographers featured in "Art and Creative of the Umbrella Movement" (Part 1, Part 2) took a different approach to portray their experiences at the protest.
First is Bobby Sham, a large format camera photographer. Sham does not identify as a photo-journalist, but instead, as a politically-neutral observer who captures the artistic side of the movement. His photos featured blurred faces that evoke the feeling of crowds of people in a single body. Sham believes his work is crucial in the historical documentation of the protests lest they ever be forgotten.
Secondly, there is Alex Ogle, a Hong-Kong based photo-journalist. He impresses himself in the front line of the protests to expose the moments of severity, often between the riot crew or polices and the peaceful protestors. Ogle comments on the disparity between a 20-second news clip of a moment during the protests and his photograph of a moment within that time period. He states that the photograph is a often more shocking when taken out of the context of the protest around it, yet, can easily be misinterpreted by the public.
Taking an entirely different approach is Raymond Kam, who rather than documenting reality, stages actors to create his photograph. In a way, Kam's work akin to a portrait of a battle commissioned by the winning side. An important difference, however, is that Kam is able to project which ever ideology he chooses, and so his work is inherently bias to one side of the protest.
Ultimately, considering the method and intent of the artist is important when documenting reality. Photography, unlike most other art, is able to straddle the line between reality and fiction. While some photography, like journal-photography, airs on the side of reality as it provides an unfiltered snapshot of an event, staged photography tends towards the side of fiction, masked by the specific ideology the photographer is intending to portray.
Liz is a senior English major with minors in Spanish and Computer Science. Her research interests, like her areas of academic speciality, lie in the intersections between humanities and science. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and playing with dogs.