Local photographer Paul Watt went to Saturday’s South Coast Resistance/Portsmouth Anti-Fascists rally in the Guildhall to document two political forces in opposition, but the activists he found on the way home changed his perspective on both photography and politics.
Yesterday I had an experience that altered the way I think about photography as a powerful medium in a big way. I took photos at a protest rally at the Guildhall Square in Portsmouth and the whole area was filled with aggression, hatred and anger.
Now, I’m not going to criticise anyone’s politics or personal point of view. To quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall :
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.
With that in mind, this article is purely about how the day’s events affected me personally and not about other people’s politics and ideals.
I felt very uncomfortable at the protest; the negative vibes that were flying around impacted on me and it showed in my photography. Some photographers live for those kind of situations, and more power to them, but it’s just not for me.
I left the protest shortly after it began and went off in search of beautiful things and people to take photos of, mostly just to balance out things in my mind and to try to restore my inner equilibrium.
I happened upon four ladies holding signs that read Peace and Women in black stand for peace. I asked if I could take their photograph, and they happily agreed.
I was struck by the quiet determination of these four women. There wasn’t any shouting, they didn’t try to force their ideals on me. They were simply standing vigil, knowing that the four of them probably wouldn’t make a huge impact on the world at large but they were standing up for what they believe in and had the courage of their convictions.
Ladies, I salute you.
I realised as I was taking these photos that my camera – as well as what I choose to share with the world – can be a powerful tool. But like all tools, it can be destructive as well as creative.
I won’t share the photos I took at the Guildhall that day, there’s no space in my life or my photography (which are one and the same) for hatred and bigotry, but I’ll happily share these photos of the four women in black doing what they believe in a quiet and dignified manner.
They are part of a worldwide organisation, Women in Black, and their website can be found here.
All images copyright Paul Watt. See more of Paul’s work, follow his blog and commission him over at his website.