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Tony Grist

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A Great Photograph [Dec. 11th, 2010|10:53 am]
Tony Grist
It's a great photograph. One of the indispensable images of the 21st century. Mostly we've been seeing it in a cropped version, with the focus tight in on the shocked reactions of Charles and Camilla- but the full image contains so much more information.

Firstly it gives us time and place. We see the Christmas lights- like netted starfish, sagging over Regent Street. And we notice how isolated the royal couple are- travelling inside their modern version of a glass coach. They're warm in there-  wearing evening dress, not coats. What has been captured is the exact moment when the glass wall is broken- and the air of the street whistles in.

Oddly enough we don't see the assailants. 

But there are two other people in the frame. They're out in the cold and dressed for it. One is a photographer. There is always a photographer. This guy is capturing the image from the rear. He'll have got a good shot- and he looks gleeful about it-  but not as good as the one we're looking at.

Then there's the chap on the right, hooded and bundled up like a Breughel peasant. He might be a demonstrator (he's the right age) or he might just be a passer-by. Anyway he's Everyman and he has concerns of his own. As Auden pointed out in his famous Breughel poem, incidents that will be remembered for always take place "While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along". Our man, our Breughel peasant, looks vaguely bothered, but he's not looking at what we're looking at, he may even be unaware of it. Instead he's looking a little to the right, with a long-distance gaze, at something behind our backs. 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: steepholm
2010-12-11 02:11 pm (UTC)
My guess is that he's trying to find his mobile phone so that he can take a picture.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-11 03:00 pm (UTC)
Could be. He seems to be reaching in his pocket.
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[User Picture]From: internet_sampo
2010-12-11 02:45 pm (UTC)
The royal couple's visible outrage and shock, captured by Matt Dunham

"outrage and shock?"

I'd say dawning fear.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-11 03:05 pm (UTC)
Martin Rowson in the Guardian has a cartoon of the incident with Charles saying "For God's sake, Driver, get us back to Versailles"
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[User Picture]From: qatsi
2010-12-11 07:18 pm (UTC)

Let them eat free-range organic Duchy Originals cake!

Ah yes, here it is.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2010-12-11 05:09 pm (UTC)
Our man, our Breughel peasant, looks vaguely bothered, but he's not looking at what we're looking at, he may even be unaware of it. Instead he's looking a little to the right, with a long-distance gaze, at something behind our backs.

I love how you write about things. Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-11 05:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2010-12-11 08:05 pm (UTC)
I saw that story and my first thought was, "How stupid were they to try to get to their destination in spite of a riot outside? What part of street violence do they not understand?"

I really wonder if it sank in.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-11 09:25 pm (UTC)
Charles and Camilla's route took them nowhere near the official site of the demonstration- and should have been safe- but the police had lost control of the situation and bands of protesters we wandering at large through central London. It was one of these random, rag-tag groups that the royal motorcade encountered on Regent Street.

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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2010-12-11 09:36 pm (UTC)
Ture, but it's exactly the nature of riots that they drift and flux and get out of control. I guess I still have such vivid memories of the Seattle 1999 WTO* that it seems obvious to me that nowhere within about a three mile radius is reliably safe.

*(I worked less than a mile from ground zero for the riots, some of the bursts of violence came within less than a quarter mile of the office, and we saw fugitives fleeing the police who ran right past our windows. It was a very tense week.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-11 09:45 pm (UTC)
London hasn't seen protests of this kind for a long time and the police are a little rusty, I think. I imagine they'll have plenty of opportunity to hone their techniques over the coming months.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2010-12-11 10:42 pm (UTC)
Mmm, excellent point. I'm not as aware as I perhaps should be about the recent history of social protest in London. I know some areas of Britain are better honed for this sort of thing, but that doesn't make London fit to deal with it.

So long as they don't consult with the Seattle police! *wry grin*
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-12 09:44 am (UTC)
London- with its medieval street plan- and all its little wynds and alleys- must be a difficult city to lock down.
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[User Picture]From: steepholm
2010-12-12 12:06 pm (UTC)
Somebody said to me yesterday that he wouldn't be surprised if they found a modern Hausmann to redesign the centre with just this in mind. (For a moment I thought he'd said Houseman, which gave me quite the wrong idea.)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-12 12:28 pm (UTC)
With vistas cunningly contrived to frame "blue remembered hills."

The Haussman option would be vigorously opposed by the heritage lobby- and a good thing too. I don't at all like what Haussman did to Paris.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2010-12-12 12:50 pm (UTC)
It's the look on Camilla's face, that does it for me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-12 02:42 pm (UTC)
It's a perfect image. A great work of art created on the spur of the moment, by a happy conjunction of accidents.
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[User Picture]From: airstrip
2010-12-12 10:25 pm (UTC)
Breughel = WIN
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