“Tank Man” 25 Years Later

Tank man 1

Photojournalists serve as the eyewitnesses to world history. They use their skills, resources, and ingenuity to do whatever it takes to ‘get the shot’, and bring light to the pressing social issues of the day.   I write this today because it marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most powerful and iconic spot news photos ever captured.

On June 5th, 1989 the famous “Tank Man” photograph was captured by Jeff Widener during the Tiananmen Square protest crackdown in Beijing.  The amazing story of how he captured one of the most widely viewed and famous news images ever,  involved luck, skill, and absolute cunning.  Although Widener’s image was a finalist for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography, the top prize went to The Tribune staff for their coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Great work to be sure, but I’ll bet you can’t remember a single iconic shot that represents the scope of damage that the quake did to the San Francisco Bay Area.

But when you see this photo…

tank-man-by-jeff-widener

You know EXACTLY what it represents. One man standing up to the injustice of a tyrannical regime…

And this one by Robert Capa 70 taken years on June 6th, 1944 during the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach…

robert_capa D day

 

Another great story is how a lab tech ruined almost all of Capa’s film after Capa risked his life dodging bullets and artillery fire trying to get “close enough” to get good pictures.

While not all photojournalists are evading secret police or stray bullets, they have endured a rapid decline of respect and perception as professionals.  A year ago, the Chicago Sun Times laid off it’s entire staff of full-time photographers.  Freelancers, wire services, and reporters with cell phones will now provide the Times with daily images.  I’m waiting to see if the Chicago Sun Tribune reporters with their little cell phones will ever capture anything on par with these iconic masterpieces above.

Yeah, right… Let’s see how that works out for them.

File Photo. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

In this age of ubiquitous cellphones and inexpensive compact cameras, everybody thinks they’re a ‘photographer’…    … but only a few can call themselves a professional.

It takes years of training, practical experience, and a huge investment in equipment to become a skilled professional photographer.

If you are a working pro, charge what you’re worth.

And if you’re the client, please don’t mistake our passion as a “hobby”, and stop offering “exposure and publicity” as a substitute for our rates and fees. I checked with my mortgage lender, they still insist on cash for my monthly payment.

Fiat Lux…

– Jeff Greene