Here I Am, Tank Man

category: > History Now/Then, > Photography

written by: Jaap Proost

SOMETIMES a person can play the media without even knowing it. You just have to be at right place, at the right time. Take for example ‘Tank Man’ aka ‘Unknown Rebel’. The man was doing his groceries on June 5, 1989  in Beijing when he decided to cause a traffic jam involving a column of Type 59 tanks. He was walking on Chang’an Avenue and behind him the student protests on Tiananmen Square took place.

 

At the same time the nearby Beijing Hotel was packed with international press.  Four photographers took the most important shots in their career and the cameras of the BBC also recorded Tank Man’s stand. The most widely used photo is from Jeff Widener of the Associated Press. Stuart Franklin (Magnum Photos) shared the balcony with Charlie Cole who worked for Newsweek. Arthur Tsang Hin of Reuters also pressed the button of his camera.

 

Tank Man, who is still anonymous today, was included in ‘Time Magazine’s ‘Most Important People of the Century.’ Some say he was shot by the secret police in the aftermath of the protests, others believe he lives in Taiwan. I personally like the picture of Charlie Cole the most. That is the only picture where Tank Man holds two plastic bags in his hands.  His pocket probably contained the receipt of the shop and some change.

 

In following order: Charlie Cole, Jeff Widener, Stuart Franklin and Arthur Tsang Hin.

 

 

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