Advice for photographers covering demonstrations

Before covering any demonstration, time spent on preparation usually pays off in keeping safe and getting good pictures.

Research & recce

  1. Check with the organisers of the demonstration its times and route.
    • Are there feeder marches?
    • What are the expected numbers?
    • Speakers?
    • Are there expected problems, any counter demonstrations?
    • Will it be marshalled?
  2. Check with police press office demonstration times, route, expected numbers, any expected problems, any counter demonstrations, whether it will be marshalled.
  3. Always carry a map so you can check alternative routes and exit points.
  4. Leave yourself time to drive the route to check for places for good pictures, trouble spots, level of policing, exit routes.
  5. If you are parking a car, think carefully where you leave it, as you might need to get out in a hurry.
  6. If you park too close to the demonstration your car could get damaged or blocked if there is trouble.
  7. If you are a freelance on commission, are you insured by the media organisation?

Preparing yourself

  1. Wear strong walking boots.
  2. Wear strong, tight-fitting clothing which allows you to move about freely.
  3. Always remember the weather and dress accordingly.
  4. Carry only a small camera bag with the minimum amount of equipment so you can move quickly if need be.
  5. Do not carry other equipment such as a step ladder.
  6. Have enough film or electronic memory in case it turns into a major news story.
  7. Shin guards, kneepads, body armour, helmet - all or some may be worth thinking about. [A bicycle helmet is less likely to attract trouble than a Darth Vader jobbie - ed]
  8. Let someone know that you are covering the demonstration, what time you are leaving and at what time to expect you back.

At the demonstration

  1. What's going on around you while you're taking pictures? There's a world outside the viewfinder and trouble can come from behind as well as in front of you.
  2. If you are working as a journalist you should not be taking part in a demonstration. At all times you should be distinct from the protesters.
  3. You should not work alongside the police as the demonstrators may mistake you for a police photographer.
  4. Always carry your press card in an accessible place and use it to identify yourself.
  5. Carry your cameras openly and act like a press photographer at all times.
  6. Keep an eye on fellow photographers in case they need help.
  7. Carry a copy of the NUJ's and Thompson solicitors emergency phone numbers in case you need help.
  8. Always work in such a way that if something happens you can extract yourself.

Remember the tank commander in Kelly's Heroes: "I always like to get out of trouble, as quickly as I got in to it."

For reasons outside the NUJ's control, getting a Press Card takes several weeks from your application to join. So do it now.

Last modified: 26 April 2001 - © 2001 contributors
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