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When I arrive at Times Square there is not much of a crowd. It’s about 4 pm and it was very hard to go into the city. If I were a conspiracy theorist I would be all over this: The 2, 3 and Q train were not operating between Brooklyn and Manhattan on Saturday. So going into the city was a real pain in the ass. When I arrive at Times Square at about 4 pm there are almost more people with cameras, ready to take pictures and shoot videos of the protest, than people ready to protest. Today I am going to focus on those people. Not just the professionals but also the people taking pictures with their iPhones, or with a $2,000 camera they decided to buy because they could. I am not sure why but when I see so many people taking pictures or shooting something, I feel the need to put away my camera. Meanwhile… over the years I’ve began to document my life more and more. A couple of times a friend of mine has taken away my camera and told me: “that’s enough, put away the fucking camera now”. Maybe it has to do with getting old. I used to have no pictures. I used to take no pictures. There are years of my life that went almost completely undocumented. I’ve heard that we only manage to keep memories of things by recreating those memories (I heard it way before, and in a much more poetic way, than on the Radiolab episode). Something happens and then you talk about it, and then you talk about it, and then you talk about it. And that way you conserve the memory, shape it, share it, categorize it. But what if you don’t talk about it? I read many years ago that a picture is not just a piece of paper (or pixels in these days). A picture contains a piece of everything that appears in it. A picture lets us observe something that otherwise we would never be able to see.
Most of the people I approach to ask for an interview are pretty nice. Some of the professionals tell me that they are not allowed to speak on camera. Others record me while I am recording them. Others want to talk, but not on camera. It’s not a hostile question but… for some reason it feels like it when I ask: “Why do you feel the need to be shooting pictures when there are so many pictures available of the same exact thing?” I guess that someone could interpret my question as: “Are you stupid? Don’t you realize that your picture is not any better than any of the 15 pictures the people around you are taking?” But really… I am the one who feels a bit stupid, going up to these people and suggesting that there is no value in taking thousands of pictures of the same thing, while I am taking pictures and shooting video of them. One of them tells me that we could probably put together a diary with all the footage and pics being registered. We could probably rescue every hour of this movement. The most over-documented movement in history? Maybe. But why not?
An Italian news reporter is walking around with this camera operator, trying to interview a group of people in their thirties, with kids. I overhear the conversation. The Italian reporter is telling the group that he is surprised to find families with kids at the protest. In Italy, he says, you can’t have protests without people rioting. It turns out that people did riot a bit in Rome. But… I can’t help but feeling suspicious about this reporter’s characterization of every single protest that may happen in Italy. When I talk to people who are taking pictures for themselves, or for an independent publication, many of them talk about the need to keep the record straight. “You can’t rely on the mainstream media.” Can you? I have met people (not in the protests… in general) who trust media, no matter what kind of media. There are people who hate media when it is openly biased (even if those outlets don’t consider themselves biased) but adore other outlets that reach certain journalistic standards (for example: NPR or the New York Times). And then there are people who think they really are all the same (as in… all bad). I tend to belong in the second camp. But sometimes, more often than I like, I find myself cursing at the radio or at the computer screen. This happens usually when they are running some international coverage. As I like to say: It’s only when they run a story on something you really know about, that you realize the media can actually be pretty clueless. With the Occupy Wall Street Protests I’ve found myself cursing at the radio or a the screen a few times. I can’t help but noticing the similarities with what happened in Spain about half a year ago. First: the media ignores; Second: the media starts to cover with skepticism and disdain; Third: the media must cover the protest movement every single time a person moves a finger (especially if it involves an arrest or a bloody finger); Fourth: the media starts getting exasperated because, apart from the obvious cute stories, (where do they go to the bathroom?, who are they?) it’s beginning to be hard to find an original news angle; Fifth: The media starts assessing the impact of the protest movement: some say it’s all bullshit, and others say that it’s igniting a worldwide tide of protests.  Note to the New York Times: The global day of action was not called by the Occupy Wall Street Movement. People have been protesting around the world for months now.
So… yes, please, protesters of the world, keep documenting on your own.
For coverage of the October 5, 2011 Occupy Wall Street protest click here.
Produced by Miguel Macias. Miguel Macias is a radio and video producer and sound designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Currently Miguel is a full time assistant professor, deputy chair for graduate studies and director of radio at the Department of Television and Radio at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

 

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  All pictures by Pamela Miller.