Dean O'Brien's Blog

Professional Experience: The death of Osama Bin Laden documented in New York

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Whilst in New York I was to start a project documenting the proposed building of a Mosque close to the site of Ground Zero.  There had been many protests for and against the building so I wanted to document the story.  I wanted to pick two individuals (one from both sides) and document who they were and why they held the views they did.  It never happened.  It never happened simply because the protests had stopped.  I travelled down to the site and all I could find was the building under 24 hour guard from NY Police.  Not a protestor in sight.  Yes, the protests had stopped.  Well for now at least.  There was nothing I could do but go out for a beer that evening and think of another project.

So here I am standing in a bar at around 11.30pm and a newsflash comes on the pub television.  Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  It was official.  How surreal, that I should be in New York, not too far from Ground Zero and this gets announced.  Yes, this was a project that I wanted to document.  The people in the pubs cheered and many headed to Times Square and Ground Zero to start the celebrations.  Rather than head there myself in the dead of night and slightly intoxicated I decided to wait till the following day.

Up early, I grabbed my camera and headed to Ground Zero.  By this time all the crowds had already left Times Square and were all starting to gather there.  As I arrive there were tv crews from almost every corner of the globe filming live around the world.  At this point I decided to get my bearings and plan where to start shooting.

Many people were turning up at the site with varied opinions of the death.  Bringing placards supporting the killing and those of the opinion that there was nothing to be gained from this.  As usual, I keep my opinions to myself and blend in as much as possible.  I search and look for fine details, slogans or markings.  In all honesty its very hard to describe what I was looking for, but I knew it when I saw it if you get my drift.  After taking a few shots my confidence grew and I continued to shoot throughout the afternoon.

Regarding problems with the shooting of this project, there was nothing too major.  A couple of Police Officers objected to their picture being taken, whilst others were more than happy.  Much the same as in this country.  As with many other projects, social skills play a major part.  The ability to talk and get on with people.  This helped me get around any objections to what I was doing.  Technically, I cant see the point of going into what settings etc.. I was using, as I know how to use a camera.  The technique that plays the biggest part is the ‘seeing’.  Seeing what to make an image of, and how to be creative in the process.

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Written by Dean O'Brien

May 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm

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