Portrait of a Protest

Activity: Photography Slideshow / Talk
Host: Moray House Trust
Date: Thursday 8th June 2017

A Fidal Bassier Photograph

The Photography Sessions: Portrait of a Protest
Moray House | Michael C. Lam | June 8, 2017

The recent protests against the metered parking system in Georgetown provided an opportunity for photographers that is not usually afforded to them in Guyana. I’d like to be clear that what follows here are my opinions, just as the photos are how I saw and captured the moments presented.

It is almost the norm in Guyana that protests are either so small as to be almost unnoticeable or so large that they tend towards the uncontrollable, but the protests organised by the Movement Against Parking Meters not only promised to be, but succeeded in being well attended, controlled and peaceful, the surprising part was that the protests also turned out to be expressive in visual ways as one of the main aspects of the protest was for them to be silent protests, a notable exception to the general silence being the party-atmosphere when the Dave Martins’ song “Postpone” was played by a mobile music cart.

I saw people from all walks of life, all races, all creeds, all ages, all classes in attendance, some came for a few minutes, many came for the full hour. The placards were sometimes serious, sometimes hilarious, some politically correct, some even bordering on the abusive, but threading its way through it all was a camaraderie, that dispelled any ideas of “trouble”, it may not have been a meeting of the minds, but it was a weekly meeting that few seemed to mind, some even seemed enthusiastic to be there.

There were more smiles than frowns, there were characters and there were actors, there were lawyers and doctors, vendors and store-owners, there were drivers and the driven, and the creativity showed not only in the placards, but in costumes and props, in restraint and in action.

The protests against the metered parking system as conceived and implemented, showed the power of peaceful protests, it showed that even without loud chanting, messages can be conveyed effectively through visual means, and for me, it showed that there are instances worth capturing, worth pondering, worth sharing…

I don’t do much street photography, or even event photography, and even those that I do, I don’t generally consider art, but a director at Moray House thought that the photography coming out of the protests were worthy of being treated as more than just Facebook posts, so here we are; In many ways it was easier to shoot than you’d think, for one, either no one paid attention to the cameras, because they were almost expected (meaning mostly as part of the press) or they noticed the cameras and reacted accordingly; for another, the ever changing dynamic of the crowd made it less of a sameness as people came and went, and things changed not only from minute to minute, but from week to week. I shall now let some of my photos do the rest of the talking:


Video Clips:

1: Michael Lam
In this clip, the moderator asks if ‘protest photography’ exists in a Guyanese context and Michael C. Lam talks a bit about the photographers’ interest in aspects of the protest.
You Tube Clip: https://youtu.be/XLgritySd2Q

2: Unity in Diversity
In early 2017 a series of silent street protests were organised by the ‘Movement Against Parking Meters’ in Georgetown. This clip is from ‘Portrait of a Protest,’ part of The Photography Sessions at Moray House Trust. Photographer Fidal Bassier gives his perspective.
You Tube Clip: https://youtu.be/TBRoXpdlz4c

3: The Players in the Protest
The people on the street at the ‘Movement Against Parking Meters’ protest in Georgetown in early 2017; the policemen, the vendors, the protesters and those going about about their daily chores.
You Tube Clip: https://youtu.be/7O1MmFT1qo8

4: Ethics, edits, perspective
Part of the question and answer segment of ‘Portrait of a People’ in which photographers Michael Lam and Fidal Bassier consider issues such as the use of monochrome or colour, the ethics of street (and protest) photography etc.
You Tube Clip: https://youtu.be/fLOacJ6OE9E

5: The Fear Factor
Protests in Guyana can occasionally be violent and unpredictable. The vast majority, of course, are not. There is also widespread concern that those taking a public stance will be sanctioned. Members of the audience discuss the fear factor with the photographers. This clip is from ‘Portrait of a Protest’ about photos taken at the MAPM silent protests in Georgetown.
You Tube Clip: https://youtu.be/JASogCvBQZA