Memorable photo from Baton Rouge demonstration

At Saturday's demonstration protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling, Ieshia L. Evans, 35, is detained by Louisiana State Police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)
At Saturday’s demonstration protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling, Ieshia L. Evans, 35, is detained by Louisiana State Police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

This photograph may well become as iconic as Jeff Widener’s 1989 “Tank Man” photo featuring a lone man confronting a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square. Such a striking contrast here: a lone black woman in a soft flowing dress standing quietly as two white male police officers in full riot gear close in.

Police were trying to clear then-peaceful demonstrators who were blocking the street/highway that runs in front of Baton Rouge police headquarters. Ieshia Evans was one of many arrested and charged with obstructing traffic.

The Atlantic interviewed New Orleans-based freelance photographer Jonathan Bachman about the circumstances surrounding his photograph and, as is so often the case, it was largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Successful photojournalists usually have a good sense of where and when that place is likely to be — and the skill to take advantage of an opportunity. Associated Press photographer Max Becherer captured the same scene but from a different angle. And the angle made all the difference:

Photo by Max Becherer/AP
Photo by Max Becherer/AP

17 thoughts on “Memorable photo from Baton Rouge demonstration

  1. I wonder what the story is behind this as she is obviously standing still, but the three officers are in motion (with the furthest looking like he’s pulling some dance move). An amazing photo.

    1. The Atlantic story explains in detail what was going. Peaceful demonstrators were blocking a major street and officers were trying to clear it. (I’ve added more explanation to the original post.)

      Interesting … I, too, thought at first there were three officers. But as I was writing I looked more closely and realized there are only two (the photographer also mentioned there were two). Something about the way the light reflects in the closest visor makes it look like two, I think. But if you count arms and legs …

      Love the lighting — the way her face glows against the dark background, while the officers’ faces are reduced mostly to just anonymous glowing visors.

      1. Ha! It is just two. Trick of the eyes, a trompe-l’œil. So much gear and with what looks to be a bag between the two, near the knee of the closer one, makes it look like three.

    1. Indeed, I am concerned about the expressed comparison with the Tiananmen Square photo. In that case, peaceful protestors were being killed and brutalized. That is not the case here, however menacing the cops might look in their riot gear. In that sense, the photo does a disservice to police in this country.

      1. From what I’ve read about events surrounding the photo, it was early in the day. The demonstration was still peaceful at the time but turned violent later on. The contrast here between the police and the woman sort of symoblizes the conflict we have in the nation as a whole. It’s regrettable that the police come off looking like storm troopers here (though it certainly adds to the drama of the photo), but considering five officers were killed in Dallas just days before, one can appreciate their caution and concern. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. If they dress like this, prepared for the worst, it almost invites trouble. It shows they don’t trust demonstrators to remain peaceful; it almost dares troublemakers to start something. If they don’t dress like this, they leave themselves as vulnerable as the five in Dallas.

        Yes, the photo does do the police a disservice. As long as the photo is remembered, the police will be remembered this way. But hopefully it will also make people ask why. Why were police in full riot gear when approaching a lone, unarmed, peaceful woman? How and why did this happen in our “civilized” country in the 21st Century?

  2. The Beauty and the Aliens…saw this a few times on the news and online. Takes my breath away every time! Another iconic photo taken over the years is the picture of the nurse being kissed by a sailor on VJ day. I forget the place, but it may have been in Paris.

  3. I think the Becherer photo best reflects the moment as you can clearly see the woman is in the process of peacefully offering her left wrist out to the officers for binding. It appears she is holding something in her right hand… curious as to what that might have been.

    1. I still think Bachman’s photo is the better composition. The subjects are centered, no heads in the background cut off, nor feet in the foreground. And the lighting on her profile is perfect. Zooming in on it, I’m pretty sure that’s a phone in her right hand. I’m more curious about what’s in her left hand. Something light-colored. Could just be a crumpled tissue but it looks like it has a well-defined box-like shape.

      1. The intent of my comment was not in regards to the quality or composition of the photograph. I was simply directing my remarks specifically to the actions of the young lady in the photo, which I thought were better captured and reflected in my referenced photo. I’ll leave the awarding of the feature photo Pulitzer Prize to others… 🙂

        1. Yes, I understand. The second picture does a better job of isolating her extended hand. I’m still curious about what’s in that hand. I’m assuming it’s probably some small personal item, but it could possibly be something she was going to offer to the police. Some sort of peace token perhaps?

... and that's my two cents