Sunday, December 4

Hear, see and not record

“Do not take photos”, “Stop recording”, “It is not information”, “You are recording and we are not interested in recording”. A few nervous words from a worker at the Prado Museum during the action of two activists on the 5th unintentionally outline the reality that we photojournalists usually face in this country: there is almost always someone who tells you what, when and where to photograph according to their interests, or according to those of the people they work for. Press officers, security personnel, doormen, police, military and even protesters in certain protests try to control what you do and that you only show what they want. But our job is to document everything that is informatively relevant.

Many photojournalists regularly cover calls for different social movements. Some are public and can be easily found on social networks. Others are transgressive actions that are carried out with the utmost discretion and in which the factor of surprise is decisive: roadblocks, sit-ins, occupation of bank offices, etc. Just as there are specialized journalists, for example, in sports, events or courts, there are also those in social movements. Activists call on journalists they already trust. They tell us a place, a day and an hour. And usually we don’t know what’s going to happen. Sometimes several of us get together at one point and then they take us to the place where the protest is going to take place. You are not part of the action. You are there to document what happens. If we don’t go, it’s the same.

The operation does not differ from many other calls. There are political acts or those of the Royal House that only certain specialized journalists or those who work for certain media know about and have access to. This is the same. Social movements are a fundamental part of our society and it is normal for there to be professionals, or people on the way to becoming one, who focus their work on covering their day-to-day lives. It is not only normal, but necessary.

Documenting everything that is outside the “official agenda” (press conferences, political statements, scheduled interviews, etc.) has always been difficult, even dangerous. And accompanying the work of social movements usually leads inevitably to it. Sometimes you get the feeling that having trade unionists, housing rights activists or anti-fascists on your contact list is worse than having politicians, big businessmen or police officers like Villarejo. It penalizes you. position you. points to you If you give yourself a hug with a person who tries to stop an eviction, whom you have seen for years fighting for a fundamental right, he marks you as a suspect. Almost almost as an activist. But if you laugh and embrace a politician that we see every day in Congress whom you are going to interview, no one doubts that you will do a rigorous job. And at no time will your professionalism be questioned.

There are dozens of examples. It’s a steady trickle over the years.

During a report on police identifications based on ethnic profiling that we did in the Diagonal newspaper in 2009, my colleague Edu León was arrested for taking photos. For a long time, different social groups denounced this practice. And we set out to document it. We suffered police intimidation, they erased our memory cards and Edu even slept in the dungeons of a police station. It was an uncomfortable reality and, as the Prado museum worker would say, “he is recording and we are not interested in his recording”. That work that my partner and I carried out for months served to illustrate Amnesty International’s 2011 report in Spain.

That year, while I was covering the eviction of Antonia, a 70-year-old woman, and her family from the apartment where they lived in Getafe, Madrid, a member of the judicial commission pointed at me and yelled at me: “If you keep taking photos, I am going to execute this eviction”. Once again the phrase of the Prado Museum worker resonates, “she is recording and we are not interested in her recording”.

In 2014, during the eviction of a 54-year-old resident of Lavapiés with a permanent disability, the municipal police arrested my colleagues Andrés Kudacki, at that time a photographer for the Associated Press agency, and Rodrigo García, who collaborated with NurPhoto. His crime: being inside the house and taking photos of how the police broke the door with a battering ram to enter. They spent the whole day at the police station and had to face trial.

That same year it was the turn of Gabriel Pecot, Juan Ramón Robles, Mario Munera and, once again, Rodrigo García, who denounced police aggression while covering the “check the king” demonstration on March 29, 2014. They filed a joint complaint in the courts of Plaza de Castilla and the National Association of Press and Television Graphic Informants (ANIGP) issued a statement in which it could be read: “We believe that the violence against these graphic informants, duly identified during the exercise of their professional work , is completely intolerable and inexplicable in a democratic state. For some time now, the succession of actions against graphic informants and journalists by the State security forces and bodies, hindering their professional work through aggression, fines and coercion, lead us to think that there is an interest in limiting public scrutiny of their interventions.

In 2015 Jaime Alekos was arrested while recording an eviction on Ofelia Nieto street in Madrid. A place that became, for a time, a symbol of the struggle for housing.

These are just a few examples over the years. All of them in Madrid, but it is something that happens in many other cities in Spain.

In some cases, professional associations and some journalists turned their backs on their colleagues, insinuating that they were activists and not journalists. Just like now with the collaborators of El Salto.

Journalists are people with ideology, tastes and interests, and professional associations are very corporatist. And collaborating with a media outlet as positioned alongside social movements as El Salto is not well seen by many people. Other media, clearly positioned along with the interests of certain companies or political parties, do not raise so many suspicions.

We have to understand that journalism is practiced from different places, almost all respectable, and that each one helps to tell a little piece of reality. And we should all be together so that no one tells us “Don’t take photos”, “Stop recording”, “It’s not information” or “You are recording and we are not interested in recording”.

Olmo Calvo is a photojournalist and collaborator of

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *