Can we take a step back please?

Ian Thomlinson's stepson, Paul King, weeps with his family on the 1 year anniversary of his death. Image © Jonathan Warren 2010
Ian Thomlinson's stepson, Paul King, weeps with his family on the 1 year anniversary of his fathers death. Image © Jonathan Warren 2010

Earlier today I attended a memorial for Ian Thomlinson, the paper seller who died during the G20 protests last year. There were numerous protesters there and even some of the organisers of the G20 protests. His family were also there to lay flowers at the spot where he died face-down on the pavement after being hit by a policeman.

There has been a lot of coverage of the Thomlinson case, so naturally there were a lot of photographers and broadcasters there to cover the event. But what I didn’t expect was the disgusting way that some, of what I would like to call colleagues, behaved both before and during the event.

As one of the organisers of the memorial told the assembled press pack that the family would be arriving shortly and asked that we be respectful and take a step or two back. One photographer asked how many of the family would be there, he replied that it would be ‘a few’ the photographer said that ‘two or three is all we need’.

It is our job as journalists to document events, not orchestrate them.

Shortly after the Thomlinson family arrived and a priest from the local church began to address the crowd, a broadcast presenter standing next to me interrupted him to ask if he would turn the other way to face her cameraman. He ignored her and continued to address the crowd asking for a minutes silence.

As the silence grew longer photographers around me were inching closer to the family as they stood weeping at the spot where Ian died. At one point one of the Thomlinson family had to push away a video camera that was beginning to brush against her head as the cameraman tried to get closer to Ian’s widow, Julia Thomlinson.

Then as the family left the memorial in tears they were chased down the street by a mob of photographers and cameramen, probably as they hadn’t been able to get a clear shot of the family at the memorial because they were surrounded by photographers, lenses inches away from their faces.

I can understand why there is a pressure to get these images, it’s difficult to explain to an editor that you didn’t get the shot because some idiot with a wide angle lens wanted to get in close. As soon as one person gets in close, everyone else has to get in close to get the shot.

As photographers we should be self-policing at these sorts of events, otherwise either we won’t be invited again or someone else will start policing them. A number of other photographers and myself repeatedly asked for people to take a step back but our requests fell on deaf ears.

Point 5 of the Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Practice states that:

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively.

So all I’m asking is, next time, can we all take a step back please?