Originally appeared: The Vancouver Sun, June 17, 2011
Following the riots in Vancouver, one photo was shared more than the rest among users of Twitter and other social media.
The photo shows a young couple tangled in each other’s arms on the street, kissing, while the police and mayhemmakers clash all around them.
“I was trying not to get my ass kicked,” says Vancouver freelance photojournalist Richard Lam, who took the photo, when asked if he had stopped to talk to the couple.
Indeed, it was a hectic and unexpected path that led to the photo, he explains: “I was shooting the game -and me and another photographer decided to go. By the time I got out there it was out of control. I started out in front of the Sandman Hotel and ended up at the Bay. There were still looters coming out, two cars were on fire.”
Soon, he was forced onto Seymour Street, corralled by the tide of rioters and police, who were “waving sticks and shields.” There, between Georgia and Robson, he spotted the couple.
“I thought people were hurt. Next thing I knew there was some guy running toward the riot police, another waving a mannequin leg. I really didn’t know what they were doing.”
Lam got the shot, and several more, and didn’t think much of it. He returned to the media room at Rogers Arena, where his editor took his memory card and imported it.
“I didn’t even look at it. A colleague said, ‘Nice photo.’ Then I went back to the editing room, and looked at it. My jaw dropped.”
The photo has kept Lam busy, with media outlets such as NPR and MSN interviewing him.
“I’ve been fascinated by [the response]. I don’t want to sound idealistic, but I was just doing my job.”