During the G20 summit in Hamburg, I photographed the protests (on behalf of the STERN magazine). The magazine PHOTONEWS (09/2017) asked me for a text about the handling, meaning and use of photography in this context.
A nice little situation during the G20 summit in July 2017 in Hamburg St. Pauli: A yellow sack with recycling garbage burns in the middle of the lane of a side street. Behind them kneels a photographer and tries from the perspective of the asphalt of this miserable pile of burning trash in the right light: as the eruption of violence and riotous, because just had the Hamburger Einsatzleiter a demonstration at the Hamburg fish market with 20,000 people due to differences to the concealment violently resolved.
The photographer did what he seemed to expect from him. The police announcements and the statements of the organizers of the protests, including the media preparation had produced in the run-up to the G20 summit on all sides of a clear expectation: it will crack, it must crack …
The photographer could not know that this picture would be wastepaper 24 hours later, when the actual, photogenic spectacle had taken place in Hamburg Schanzenviertel: blazing barricades at the blue hour, masked figures with naked muscular upper bodies, jeering party people, looting, water cannons Missions, GSG 9 – street battles. The full program – a dream in the media and especially in photography. The light version of Gaza Strip and Venezuela on your doorstep, just a stone’s throw away from the editorial offices in Hamburg.
So that the expectations of all were not disappointed, the many participants of the G20 summit did their best: Politicians, police commanders, police officers of all units, demonstrators of all Coleurs, spectators, journalists and of course photographers. The latter had a special role to play: they made the whole thing live and relive – at least visually – at times, and thus these actors helped shape the meaning and interpretation of the violent protests against the G20 summit. Photographers and cameramen have more or less taken over the interpretation sovereignty of such events with their pictures, because in the fast times it is not so much about content, classifications and connections, but about the fast pleasure of the pictures, the feeling of being there, even though you sat in front of the TV at home. As a spectator, one succumbs to the suggestion of being a witness and knowing, even though one is unaware. Eye food instead of brain lard.
The staging of the G20 games in Hamburg began long before the statesmen and state women landed in Hamburg. The police in Hamburg were very keen to keep the interpretation sovereignty of the pictures in advance. For example, the journalists were repeatedly invited to meetings, such as the “Introduction of the Neoland Prisoners’ Collection”, which was built in the south of Hamburg specifically for the G20 summit and offers up to 450 places for prisoners.
In small groups, they were led through the nearly deserted former wholesale market hall for 45 minutes, which was to become home to arrested demonstrators. As with an exhibition, all the stations that a prisoner has to pass through were proudly demonstrated: registration, recognition service treatment, cell tract, interview rooms etc. etc … There was nothing to be seen in photography except empty containers, halls and temporary offices. In between, individual police officers who made it clear that they are not in a planned logistics center, but in a makeshift jail.
An interesting aspect was the fact that a few days earlier, the police had acted as information officers at another police photo shoot, informing the public about the upcoming G20 summit. Well, with a new function, they were then asked by the photographers, but please complete one time (empty) cell, to sit down, to look strictly or sometimes to walk here and there along. Public relation at its finest. The following day, these police-arranged pictures were lead-makers of the local media with the tenor: “Here the police want to accommodate G20 rioters” (Mopo).
Such pictures, including the scattered police and intelligence information and estimates of how many protesters (with and without violence in the luggage) would be expected in Hamburg, left only one conclusion: it must crack, it will crack …
Like the state power, however, the opponents of the G20 summit had also completed their basic course in public relations. They invited to one or the other happenings, which took place only for the media and in particular for photographers, because one had understood that in this whole G 20 summit hype in advance of the editors pictures are needed. For example, in the course of the hick-hack around the demonstrators’ camps, there was an action staged for the press, in which smaller tents painted with anti-G 20 slogans were symbolically placed near the summit venue. From this point on, there was finally the necessary illustration to the texts, which dealt with the squabbling over the camps in the city. When the threat was in the room, it would be necessary to build smaller camps throughout the city, if the city does not approve of the actual camps, you could imagine what that would look like. Almost touching compared to the mobilization campaign of the militant opponents of the summit. These had also advertised with images on the Internet for protesting against the meeting in Hamburg: martial, fiery and glorifying violence videos that were an exaggerated anticipation of the later riots in Hamburg. Here, too, only one conclusion was suggested: it will crack, it must crack. fiery and violence-glorifying videos that were an exaggerated anticipation of the later riots in Hamburg. Here, too, only one conclusion was suggested: it will crack, it must crack. fiery and violence-glorifying videos that were an exaggerated anticipation of the later riots in Hamburg. Here, too, only one conclusion was suggested: it will crack, it must crack.
When it crashed, the actual hour of the pictures came. For the best sunset time (shallow evening light, blue sky, hi and there a few clouds) burning barricades were built, the little black was taken out of the backpack and the host of photographers had trouble not constantly having other colleagues in the picture, while one or the other beam of the water cannon glittered in the evening backlight. No side of the participants had promised too much and the almost unreal spectacle took its course, while, aroused by this simple aesthetics of resistance, spectators (mostly adventure-oriented young people from the bourgeois suburbs of Hamburg) posed in front of burning barricades and approaching police units to smartphoneflinke images and To pump movies into social networks. One of these pictures – taken from a roof – shows in a top view the main place of the riots. Apparently the entire street burns, above is the just risen moon with a light courtyard. Almost romantic, but just as romantic as apocalypses sometimes look. As caption the call for help: “Please stop! Help, where is the police? The black block just takes the whole shoulder blade apart # nichtmeinhamburg #nofilter !!! “. where is the police? The black block just takes the whole shoulder blade apart # nichtmeinhamburg #nofilter !!! “. where is the police? The black block just takes the whole shoulder blade apart # nichtmeinhamburg #nofilter !!! “.
Another resident of the neighborhood corrected this impression a few hours later: “The picture does not show the true situation. There were three fires on the streets, the fourth I’m not sure. These fires blazed only on the road and were made of wood and scrap, rather barricades, with tires and plastic to produce maximum smoke.
Size of Easter fires, I could approach to 1-2 m. There was no house burning. As far as I know in this street no car. I do not want to defend these people, but I can only warn against taking such pictures seriously. “(The author confirms this impression.)
It is this classic that repeatedly leads to this kind of staged and distorting pictures: the more dramatic the picture, the more heroic the author of the pictures, even if it is sometimes just a lonely burning yellow sack on the street.
So much for the aesthetic power of the images that will have attracted so many viewers to participate in the spectacle. Some form of violence, the state authority, some will now have to ask in retrospect, because the police have received with their search call for photos and videos from the riotous night already more than 1,000 submissions. The true riot raiders are aware of this danger, and when REWE was looted that night, one of the autonomists told the gazers and photographers in a rather polite way that here and right now photos are not welcome. However, who did not appreciate this friendliness, was given the choice: either chip or just the whole camera.
Thus, such events are increasingly a struggle for images, which are crucial in today’s media events for interpretation sovereignty. All parties involved must be aware of this, especially the authors, photographers and photographers.