Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Contact Sheet of Stuart Franklin Showing the Unfolding of Tiananmen Square

On the way to Beijing in late May of 1989, Stuart Franklin bought a long mirror lens in the Dubai airport. He had been called in a hurry by his agency, Magnum, to cover the growing student protests in Tiananmen Square. Several days later, on June 5, this lens came in handy as Franklin was photographing from the balcony of the Beijing Hotel with fellow magazine photographer Charlie Cole, capturing what would become the visual emblem of the largest political protest in communist Chinese history: a lone man squaring off in the face of an oncoming column of tanks.

The contact sheet from Stuart Franklin's version of the Tank Man photos showing the unfolding of events as seen from Franklin's vantage point from the balcony of the Beijing Hotel. His photos nearly risked confiscation by the Chinese police, but Franklin had left moments earlier to cover events at the Beijing University before the police came knocking on the journalists' hotel. Afterwards his negatives were smuggled out in a packet of tea by a French student who later delivered it to Franklin's Parisian office. Franklin, working then for Time, won the World Press Photo Award for his coverage.
"This is not a contact sheet, strictly speaking. It's an assemblage of photographs in more or less chronological order. It was the morning after the terrible crackdown on demonstrators around Tiananmen Square. The square had been cleared overnight and we were trapped in the Beijing Hotel. All the photographs were taken from the balcony. When I started taking them, I had no idea what was going to happen, but I did see people in the distance form a line in front of a row of soldiers. I heard shots fired but couldn't confirm who, if anyone, had been hit." - He recalled.
A contact sheet of transparencies showing the unfolding of events as seen from Franklin’s vantage point from the balcony of the Beijing Hotel.
"Finally the tanks started to roll up the avenue, and the whole ballade began between them and the lone protester. I was always frustrated with my photographs: I was too far away. But I guess the photograph of defiance became iconic, and symbolic of the whole juggernaut of the Chinese state being challenged by its people. In this sequence I at least try to place the work in context, in space and time."
A lone protester, who came to be known as “Tank Man”, stops a column of T59 tanks rolling out of Tiananmen Square.

(Photos by Stuart Franklin, via Proof and Telegraph)

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