When Pauline Hanson was sent to prison, it was headline news. Not surprisingly, when she was released from prison after her conviction was quashed in November 2003, it was also headline news.
When she was taken to prison it was in the back of a prison van with the windows blacked out and getting photos/footage of her was nigh on impossible. However, when she was released, she was going to walk out a free woman and the media was going to be able to record every moment. They were going to be there en masse.
The way things turned out, One Nation co-founder David Ettridge, who had been imprisoned with Hanson, also had his conviction quashed and was released at the same time.
The mens and womens correctional centres at Wacol on the western outskirts of Brisbane are next to each other and whether by design or coincidence, both Ettridge and Hanson walked at the same time.
Despite the correctional facilities being next to each other, all the media outlets had sent reporters/photographers/TV crews to cover both exits.
I can't remember who walked first but one, then the other, appeared from their respective exit. Friendships and acquaintances went by the wayside in the name of journalism i.e. getting the quote, vision, photo, and the usual pushing, shoving and jostling among the assembled media took place.
When Hanson and Ettridge made a beeline for each other it became obvious a media sh*t fight was in the offing when the met. Indeed, it was like two waves smashing into each other head on as the two already sizeable press packs morphed into one giant, seething mass of spitting, snarling, pushing, shoving, yelling humanity. Elbows became the weapon of choice and it was the survival of the fittest. The whole affair took on the appearance of a Medusa - a writhing mass with dozens of heads.
It was a great time to take out revenge on anyone you may been feuding with - an elbow to the head or a knee to the general groin region could all have been done in the name of 'getting the job done'.
I can't speak for others but at times like this I do try and watch for other photographers. Of course, TV crews are fair game - they're always getting in the way and f*cking up our photos, so it is a great chance for payback.
Anyway, I can't remember who I was initially following but I soon became one of Medusa's heads and it was all on. It was one of those strange occasions when the adrenalin kicks in and instinct takes over. It's times like this that you appreciate having all those years experience under your belt.
I tried shooting with the camera to my face but there was so many people, cameras and microphones in the way that it was impossible to get a clean shot.
One of the things that pisses me off about movie 'press packs' is that photographers are always lifting their camera above their head to take a photo, even if they're standing in front of the person they're photographing. I can count the amount of times I've lifted my camera above my head on one hand. I feel like a toss-pot every time I do it and try and avoid it at all costs. Anyway, in the name of wankery, this was one time when I just had to do it. There was far too much crap in the way and I was wedged where I was. That press pack was as tight as a fish's bum and if I was going to get anything decent the camera was going to have to get 'airborne'.
Situations like this are one of those weird times when a matter or seconds seems like a mini-eternity.
I remember as I lifted the camera up it freed me up a whole lot more. Each time someone had bumped into me when I was looking through the camera, the camera jolted. Having my arms above my head eased this problem. I had to sacrifice less control over what I was doing but all I needed was one half-decent shot. To make sure I had every chance of getting a decent photo I half-watched my camera to make sure it was pointing in the right direction while also keeping an eye on my two subjects All the while I left myself to the will of the throng and moved with the crowd.
With the camera above my head, I kept firing the whole time. It's not totally blind firing as, like I said, I was aware of where the camera was pointed and I was doing some rough math in my head as to what angle might work best.
After the two had embraced and the initial sh*tfight ended, the media throng actually retained some level of normality. I kept taking shots and it wasn't until they'd both departed the scene in a car that I had the chance to stop and look at what I'd taken. Amidst the mess and slop was the frame you see here.
From an aesthetic view, it's spot on - the composition funnels the viewer straight to Ettridge and Hanson, whose red hair shines out from the surrounding greyness of those recording the moment. Many other photographers resorted to the 'airborne' tactic and everything in the photo is directed at the subject matter. This is one of my favourite news photos and, like so many other photos in this blog, it came from pretty close to nothing. While I was trying my best to get a decent shot, the reality was I had little idea of what I was getting.
What made it even better was that it was run right across the front page of the Courier Mail (who I was working for). There's nothing better than seeing a photo you are really proud of splashed across page one - the thrill never tires.
Gear used - Nikon D100, Nikkor 20mm f2.8 lens, 800ISO, (probably) 1/250 f8