Hillsborough 19 years on

Hillsborough 19 years on

I’m going to be honest here and say that I feel like I failed to properly document this event. There are two reasons for that. Firstly because I found it incredibly hard to lift up my camera and point it at people who were there to remember their dead friends and family. Secondly because I decided to go and watch the service and 200mm just wasn’t enough to get the shots I wanted. I felt very small, like everyone was watching me every time I lifted up my camera. The shutter on my camera was the loudest sound in the world yesterday. However by the end I realised why I was there, and by that time it was too late to get any good photos. I was there to show how much of an impact this event has had even 19 years on. I should have got the photo of people crying because it shows how they’ve been affected. I didn’t want to intrude though, and when you’re standing next to someone crying the last thing you want to do is take their photo no matter how good the shot would be. I’m not quite there yet as a real photojournalist it seems.


Photographer and part time Spider-man.

5 thoughts on “Hillsborough 19 years on”

  1. Its the hardest thing in the world Pete, I myself find it difficult in situations (and more often than not, chicken out) where you feel everyone is looking at you, theres no way I could of even got this shot! But I wouldn’t fret, I think it must come with experience. At least I’m hoping so!

    Great shot of a truely emotional event.

  2. I came on here to say something and realised that Matt (poster above) had started with the exact line I was going to use.

    It’s the hardest thing in the world to seperate yourself as person with respect and emotions and the you that is a photojournalist. You can get amazing photographs if you’re willing to cross that line, but if it’s part of who you are – do you really want to? As a writer I struggled enormously with intrusion and feeling like I was invading privacy when I started out, and decided I couldn’t go any further down the reporting route for that very reason. I’ve found a good balance now that I’m happy with, but I’m not brave enough or willing enough (not sure which) to cross the line, but we need people who do. After all it’s Pete the photographer, the photo-journalist, the historian taking the photos, not Pete the man.

    Well done on the shots you got – takes real guts to lift the camera in that situation and you did it. Next year will be the 20th anniversary, and maybe then you’ll take that next step. Remember you’re a photojournalist, it’s who you are, it’s what you do.

    Anfield looked beautiful yesterday when the sun was setting. RIP 96.

  3. I’ve really got to go for it next year. I know that I’m doing things for the right reasons. James Natchwey does war photography to show how bad it is to the world. He says;

    The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I am benefiting from someone else’s tragedy. This idea haunts me. It is something I have to reckon with every day because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition I will have sold my soul. The stakes are simply too high for me to believe otherwise.

    I attempt to become as totally responsible to the subject as I possibly can. The act of being an outsider aiming a camera can be a violation of humanity. The only way I can justify my role is to have respect for the other person’s predicament. The extend to which I do that is the extent to which I become accepted by the other, and to that extent I can accept myself.

    I forgot this yesterday. I forgot that these feelings won’t go away, but that I should understand why they are there and why I am taking photos.

  4. Pete,

    My tuppence worth FWIW. Firstly, I really feel for you in that situation – the shutter sounds like a crack of thunder in that second, and a huge sign seems to appear over your head saying something six lettered in glowing neon.

    I’d agree in principle with what’s been said, but with one caveat for such emotive situations; usage and intent. The question I always ask myself is “whats this picture for”, meaning where will it appear as well as my personal intent. Will it be widely published in a way that acurrately reflects the situation, and have an opportunity to change minds, create debate or enlighten viewers beyond mere voyeurism? Does the historical value outweigh the intrusion? I suppose it’s the same as public interest: is it in the public interest as opposed to merely being interesting to the public? Lastly, will the images preserve the subjects dignity?

    Nachtwey’s words describe the dilemma perfectly, but his situation is such that his images will almost always find an audience fairly immediately and have an opportunity to inform public attitudes and debate. I’m not sure he would do the same were he merely adding to his portfolio.

    If I shoot such subjects with a view to an appropriate book, exhibition, editorial picture story that I believed served some public interest, that would, for me, be sufficient justification for the intrusion. Anything less and I would tend to back off.

    I’ve been pushed into crossing this line on press jobs three times in twenty years, and would studiously avoid being put in that position again. Subjects will usually let you know clearly enough when you are crossing their line in the sand, but it’s just as important to know where your own is in a given situation.

  5. Hi there,

    Above all you should keep asking yourself these questions, and realize that there are times when you have to put the camera away.

    A few years ago I saw two photo exhibitions in adjacent rooms in the same venue: one was a Robert Capa retrospective, the other was ‘Fifty years of AFP photography’. The Capa exhibition was brilliant, the AFP one absolutely hateful, and I’m still trying to work out precisely why. The difference came down to how the different photographers answered this question. With the Capa photos you felt that Capa was risking his own neck because he wanted _you_ (in some limited way) how it felt to be in that situation–on the beaches at Normandy, in the middle of the Spanish civil war, whatever. You got the feeling that Capa had that question in his mind every time he raised the camera to his eye: “Should I be taking this photo? What gives me the _right_ to take this photo?” Because of that, seeing the pictures made you think (and I’m only exaggerating a little bit) “Shit–that could be _me_!”

    With the AFP photographers it was completely different, despite the fact that every single one of them would probably have cited Capa as a role model. If the question of ‘rights’ entered their minds at all as they raised the lens, it was “What will the syndication rights on _this_ picture get me?”–then take the photo and jet off to find the next picturesque example of human misery. Their photos could never make you think “Shit–that could be me!” Instead, you just sit there reading your glossy magazine in Paris or London or New York, pat your belly, and think complacently, “I’m glad that could never be _me_.” The only decent thing for these photographers to do would be to follow Kevin Carter’s example.

    That’s what I reckon, anyway. You should never feel as if you’ve failed as a photojournalist because you’ve respected other people’s dignity.

    So I’m not sure if I agree that you should separate ‘Pete the photojournalist/documenter of history’ from ‘Pete the man’. But I’m glad that you and the other people who’ve commented on this page are really _thinking_ about this. And _this_ photo is really good.

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