Photographer Recalls Tiananmen Square ‘Tank Man’ Moment

StuartFranklinPicWhen Stuart Franklin (pictured), from a distance, started snapping on June 5, 1989 pictures of a man standing in protest in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square, he had no idea the image would become so iconic. In his Guardian remembrance of that moment, he suggests that TV coverage of the overall events and that individual’s slow boil were equally responsible for the image’s impact.

In the Franklin essay, there is also an important lesson for all current and future international-conflict stringers and journalists: ignore those First World stomach pangs! Unlike many colleagues, Franklin – on assignment for Time magazine via agency Magnum Photos – and his Newsweek cohort Charlie Cole had stayed put at a nearby hotel. Even though they were confined to the structure on June 5 by Chinese military, they were still able to make photojournalism history from a room balcony:

The majority of journalists were not there to witness the scene; lots had moved to another hotel and missed the ‘tank man’ moment. Most of them started at the Beijing Hotel, but the food wasn’t great. Another place nearer the airport did hamburgers, so they had decamped and got stuck outside the city by blockades at the point of the crackdown.

Franklin writes that as he shot the Beijing “tank man,” he couldn’t help also but think of a similar moment in Prague in 1968. Read the rest of the Guardian piece here.

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