Journalist Spotlight

Dylan Martinez on capturing the viral photograph of a black protester carrying a suspected far-right protester to safety

Dylan Martinez on capturing the viral photograph of a black protester carrying a suspected far-right protester to safety

Last week, a photograph captured by Reuters photographer Dylan Martinez of a black protester carrying a suspected far-right protester to safety went viral on social media and was featured in news bulletins and newspapers across the globe. The picture was taken during chaotic scenes in London, as mostly peaceful anti-racist demonstrations turned into violent scuffles with counter-protesters in the area. In this week’s Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, Dylan gives a behind-the-scene look at covering the protests.

Q: How did you capture this picture?

A: We, a team of Reuters photojournalists, text journalists and TV camera operators, had been following the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations and counter-demonstrations since before midday. Sporadic clashes between counter-protestors, police and protestors had flared up throughout the day across central London – when we arrived at this scene, by the South bank, we had only just left Waterloo train station, where violent and chaotic scenes resulted in quite a few bloodied and injured protestors and police. Emotions were high with fights breaking out in multiple locations. I was moving around on the edge of a group of protesters watching the scene unfold. I suddenly saw a crowd of people in a huddle and a fight broke out on the staircase. At this moment, a counter-protestor, now identified as Bryn Male, was scooped up and placed on the shoulder of Patrick Hutchinson in a fireman’s lift. I could see they were traveling towards my position. I waited a few moments and suddenly the crowd opened, and I darted in towards the group to take my pictures. Patrick Hutchinson was in the centre and his friends were forming a protective ring around the carried man. They were heading very fast, almost running towards a row of police officers where they handed him over as the crowed who saved him chanted, “That’s not what we do.” I immediately transmitted the sequence off-camera to our global picture desk and then I moved on to other flash points.

Q: What has it been like covering the protests in London?

A: The BLM protests came after three months of lockdown, so probably the most stressful part of the coverage was sudden proximity to thousands of demonstrators. It’s in many ways more stressful than the actual physical danger, as anything from bottles, bricks, fireworks, traffic cones, bicycles fly over your head. Anyone who wears glasses and a mask knows how easy it is for them to steam up, which is not ideal in a volatile situation. I had covered a few BLM protests leading up to this one and could feel the tension rising from one to the next.

Q: What makes you passionate about photojournalism?

A: I have always really appreciated that being a photographer at Reuters is like having Willy Wonka’s golden ticket and with that comes great responsibility. It is up to us to show what it’s like to actually be there. Photography has a way of communicating directly to people across cultures and languages and I love that.

Q: What have been your most rewarding and most difficult experiences as a photojournalist?

A: Being there. I always wanted to be there, to witness it myself and not just watch it on TV; World Cups, Olympic Games, coups, uprisings, summits, festivals, concerts, football matches, fashion shows, interviews and portraits with groovy people, etc… It was and is all the same to me – just great. Meeting cool people and making friends around the world has also been an added-bonus. Of course, witnessing pain and suffering is never easy, but somehow I’ve found that trying to find connection and have empathy with your subject can help.

Q: Can you imagine being anything other than a photojournalist? If so, what?

A: I love swimming and always thought being a free diver would be super cool. But honestly, I can’t think of a better job…