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The Story Behind the Black Lives Matter Photo Seen Around the World

Jonathan Bachman's photo of protester Ieshia Evans being arrested in Baton Rouge has become instantly iconic.

by VICE Staff
Jul 14 2016, 7:55pm

Protestor Ieshia Evans is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department on July 9. Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

At its most basic, news photography is the business of capturing the facts of an event on film. You go to the where, find the what, take shots of the who. But the best photos of news events contain something more. They show us a politician's face in a vulnerable moment, or the grace of an athlete in mid-leap, the raw emotion of mourners at a celebrity funeral.

Jonathan Bachman's recent photo of a Black Lives Matter protester in Baton Rouge being arrested, which he took for Reuters, is one of those wire photos destined to become an iconic image. The woman, Ieshia Evans, seems to have a serene power of the police officers taking into custody, and the lack of any other protesters in the frame give the photo a surreal tinge, as if it's taken the combined might of the Baton Rouge Police Department to arrest a single black woman.

Bachman took other excellent shots from that weekend of protests in Baton Rouge, but none have taken off like that one. We talked to him about how he captured that moment, and took a look at the photos that he took immediately before and after.

VICE: What was the mood like at the protest? Were you ever in physical danger?
Jonathan Bachman: Up to that point, the protests in Baton Rouge were very peaceful. People are very angry, but at that point, they had not turned to violence. However, later that night there was an incident were an officer lost teeth after being hit with an object.

I never felt like I was in danger. The demonstrations were peaceful. Reuters sent me to a hostile training course earlier this year. I learned a lot from the course. It taught me to how to constantly be aware of the situation and your surroundings.

When you're taking photos, how do you balance getting interesting, compelling images with trying to capture key moments in the event?
This was actually the first protest I have covered. So I was just trying to tell the story of what was happening in that moment and the time leading up to it.

How did the protesters treat you? Did you get the sense they want media attention?
Often I was offered snacks and water. It truly was a peaceful demonstration. I don't think media attention is their top goal. The demonstrators are just angry and want their voices heard. I feel they know the media is there, documenting the event, but I don't believe getting on TV or in pictures is their top priority.

What do you think a photojournalist's first and top priority is?
A photojournalist's first priority is to truthfully tell the story of what is happening through a series of images.