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Off the Press -- Trouble in Town Today !!

Discussion in 'Photojournalism, Candids and Street Photography' started by bendheim, May 30, 2005.

  1. Street traders, informal traders or hawkers - call them what you will - are part of the streetscape of just about all cities in the developing world. You may like them for the colorful displays of merchandise on the streets and the vibe they bring to the city - or you may dislike them for clogging up the pavements and making them hard to walk on.

    In the 1970's and 80's, hawkers were illegal in the city. Funnily enough, in the early eighties when I was doing social and economic research, I did a lot of work in these communities and produced a report which led to their legalisation in 1984 in Durban.

    But today, with rural-urban migration on the increase due to poor peoples' perceived notions of getting rich in the big city, and the inability of the economy to grow enough formal jobs, people have been turning to the streets in increasing numbers as a means to earning a living.

    In the meantime, traders who were legalised had been given a licence and a neat stall to trade from in the centre of town. Some of these traders were dubious, however - not neccessarily trading for their own account, but rather as "fronts" for wealthy business sharks who were flooding the market with cheap goods from Taiwan without having to pay normal shop rentals. Nevertheless, although not all were entrepreneurs, they were at least all salary earners.

    In the meantime, the numbers of illegal traders were continuing to grow and set themselves up on any strip of vacant sidewalk they could find.

    For years this simply went on unchecked. Big business, alarmed by the state of the central city, moved out in numbers to suburban office parks. Inner city buildings, major tax income sources for the city, lay empty.

    After years of inaction, the police have recently been raiding the illegal traders and confiscating their goods in an effort to bring back some control to the city centre. After a few raids, and with their sole source of income now under considerable threat, the traders marched on City Hall this morning.

    I'll tell the rest of the story with pictures, rather than words.


    The protesters had been at it outside the City Hall for most of the morning, singing, brandishing sticks and generally making a loud noise. By 1.30pm, with the protest permit having expired at noon, the police were getting impatient. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    What Robert Mugabe, despot president of neighbouring Zimbabwe had to do with a group of street hawkers was anyones's guess. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    This woman was one of the leaders of the protesting traders. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    She asked the crowds to disperse peacefully from the City Hall, but they were angry and were clearly not going to listen to her. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    Some, like this angry old man, were fired up and shouted insulting comments as she tried to speak. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    Without warning, and clearly tired of the standoff, the police fired a couple of stun grenade shots into the air. The crowd panicked and scattered in a matter of seconds. I thought they were live shots and nearly hit the deck, but my first instinct was to keep taking pictures. Notice the pigeons flying through the air behind the smoke. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    Some ran for the protection of the City Hall, others got hemmed in behind a small decorative wall in front of the building. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    Trapped behind the wall, with the police in pursuit, this woman scrambles over in an attempt to escape. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    This woman broke her leg in the escape; her fellow protesters applied some first aid using discarded protest placards. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    One of the protesters is arrested and led away by the police. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    After the initial dispersal of protesters, they regrouped under the watchful eye of the police captain, his ample frame atop of his bike. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    Another one of leaders, in order to provke the police further, starts chanting to the now re-grouped crowd. City Hall, Durban, South Africa.


    Realising that they would get nowhere with the police, the crowd suddenly swung around and ran into the centre of the city, against the flow of the traffic. Realising that they were now out of reach of the police, they broke and looted the stalls of legal street hawkers on the way, scattering goods onto the pavements, breaking items with sticks and stealing whatever they could grab. West Street, Durban, South Africa.


    Vehicles in the one-way main street avoid trashed, overturned bins and other debris as the crowd head west. West Street, Durban, South Africa.


    This man is held by the police for breaking down a licenced stall. He bursts into tears as he his caught, a far cry from his earlier bravado in front of the stallholders as he trashed their goods. West Street, Durban, South Africa.


    "If you don't like the way the city is run," shouts this legal trader to the arrested man, "go and beat up the mayor. Don't come breaking and stealing my stuff!" West Street, Durban, South Africa.


    Finshed berating the arrested man, she turns on the police. Where were you?, she shouts, "Now my stuff has been stolen and damaged." West Street, Durban, South Africa.


    Having made it through the traffic, the amply bodied police captain comes face to face with his patrol vehicles. But it's now too late. The damage has been done, the crowd has fled into the 4pm home time pedestrains and shoppers. West Street, Durban, South Africa.

    They say the protest will resume tomorrow.
  2. great series, lots of news there. not sure I would be able to handle that.
  3. PGB


    Jan 25, 2005
    Excellent story Peter. I especially like the pic of the "amply bodied" police captain.

    Thanks for sharing.
  4. Great photojournalism Peter, makes you feel like you are there and part of the action.
  5. Hey Peter, if I come down to your place, you have a job for me?
  6. MikeG


    Apr 30, 2005
    SF Bay Area

    Excellent and poignant photos.

    Compelling commentary as well.

    A story well told.

    Kindest regards and kudos to you...
  7. A sad day for your beautiful city, Peter.
    Excellent shots, as usual. Thank you for taking the time to post & narrate.
  8. AndyWoodward

    AndyWoodward Guest


    Not only have you reported a difficult story using great commentary and appropriate photographs, but the quality of those photographs is outstanding.

    I very much look forward to your posts as they are always compulsive viewing.

    Thanks for taking the time and trouble to show them to us.

  9. heiko


    May 15, 2005
    Dear Peter,

    Thanks for telling this story. It also points out a very problematic issue in todays photo journalism: the picture itself is only part of the story, and without the proper explanation, one can easily draw wrong conclusions. Todays newspapers, magazines TV broadcasts are full of often shocking pictures, with very little background on how things got out of hand. Some Western Europeans, for example, would easily take side with the protestants when seeing pictures of police using teargas or other means to disperse the crowd, sympathising with the poor's fight against the rich and the powerful, who are protected by "law" enforcement officers.

    Well, your pictures, if uncommented, could easily tell a different story. So much the more thanks to you for making an effort to give a more complete picture by telling the story.

    Hope very much to see more of your work!



    Apr 30, 2005
    Hi Bendheim,

    I am a big fan of your work....always interesting, artistic, and unique.

    This series was very nicely done !


  11. Peter, I'll say it again....I love your work!! Your photography and stories are wonderful, sad, happy, angry..........very emotional!! Thank you for sharing your experiences!! Please post more!! :D  :D  :D 
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