Franklin, Stuart (12 of 13). Oral History of British Photography
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Franklin, Stuart (speaker, male)
Read, Shirley (speaker, female)
Part 12: SF went to China for Magnum because of the build up of the protest movement there. Time then gave him an assignment. Stayed in an hotel next to Tiananmen Square. Tried to document as much as he could of the protest. A hunger strike in the square and a very positive mood, very peaceful. The army truncated this when they moved in June 3rd & 4th. Took the picture from the balcony of his hotel. Was with a writer from Vanity Fair, Charlie Cole from Newsweek. It was very harrowing to watch, the tanks moved up the avenue. The young man who climbed on the tank was pulled away by people in the crowd and has never been heard of since. Hid the film in a bag of tea and gave it to a French student who was flying back to Paris. The photograph was published as a double page in Time magazine and all over the word; Charlie Coles picture was published in Newsweek. Think the picture survived because it has smoke coming out of the tank in the back. Symbolised the defiant moment, man against the mountain of the Chinese state. It wasn't a very satisfying image to take, he was too far away, was several stories up with a 500mm lens and the one thing he could see in his mind was Koudelka's picture of tanks rolling into Prague in 1968. But he couldn't leave the hotel because the army were there and had completely taken over the avenue. Nevertheless it became an iconic photograph, possibly because of the television coverage which made it an iconic moment. SF took many pictures which he thought were stronger images and told more but didn't become iconic. The hotel was searched and film confiscated. SF was sent into the countryside. All quiet where he was sent so photographed daily life. Time had photographers all over the country. When he returned the photograph had been published and was being made into a poster, because Rene Burri had seen the possibility. Came back a week before the Magnum meeting in New York to prepare a portfolio for the meeting to become a member after four years. Many interviews. Interpreting news and putting inflection on it is a tremendous role for photographers. Televison & the wire services tend to present more anondyne, more technical and less personal and less heartfelt images rather than the much more engaged document of the event where you got a more varied account of the event. Now its more fragmented, photographs may be more glamorous but tell us less. The wires services tend to operate round a single image and the magazines presented a narrative. Photography as used in the press today tends to sever links and connections rather than make them as it used to. We lose good information. Admired David Blundy work, he broadened the story out from one person or family.