My big break Roger Hutch­ings

NPhoto - - Pro Zone - Keith Wil­son

“Ididn’t re­ally un­der­stand what was go­ing on. There were so many things hap­pen­ing, so many peo­ple, such anar­chy, such an ex­tent of chaos. It was a very hard thing to pho­to­graph.” Roger Hutch­ings is re­call­ing his first im­pres­sions of the In­dian town of Ay­o­d­hya in Septem­ber 1990, when he ar­rived to wit­ness ri­ot­ing Hindu pil­grims, led by the politi­cian LK Ad­vani, at­tempt­ing to tear down an Is­lamic mosque. Ad­vani and his fol­low­ers claimed the dis­puted holy site was the birth­place of Hindu god Rama, and that the mosque built on the ru­ins of an ear­lier tem­ple.

Roger was al­ready an es­tab­lished globe-trot­ting news pho­tog­ra­pher, but this was his first trip to In­dia and he was given due warn­ing about what to ex­pect by a lo­cal pas­sen­ger on the train jour­ney from Delhi: “I said I was go­ing to Ay­o­d­hya and he just looked at me and said: ‘Ay­o­d­hya? Hmm, many peo­ple will be killed there. You may be one of them!’” Ar­riv­ing in the main city of Luc­know, Roger bumped into the BBC cor­re­spon­dent Christo­pher Mor­ris and they shared a taxi for the fi­nal leg of the jour­ney. Upon ar­rival, the two men were con­fronted with a fullscale riot of “naked, white-painted sad­hus (holy men) be­ing bat­tered over their heads with bam­boo canes as they tried to break through the po­lice lines, peo­ple set­ting fire to build­ings and set­ting fire to ve­hi­cles, mobs run­ning, the po­lice chas­ing them.”

The pic­ture fea­tured here, taken on that day, shows a po­lice­man stand­ing in front of a burn­ing Land Rover set alight by the ri­ot­ing mob. “I had never seen the like of it be­fore,” Roger says. “There was a huge po­lice pres­ence just try­ing to pro­tect the mosque and main­tain law and or­der. The mob started set­ting fire to ve­hi­cles and they set fire to a po­lice ve­hi­cle, and that’s the shot.”

Con­fi­dence boost

This pic­ture, taken with a 70-210mm lens, won the 1991 Nikon Photo Es­say of the Year award.

Re­flect­ing on the sig­nif­i­cance of this pic­ture, Roger re­marks: “Why was it im­por­tant to me? I think for a num­ber of rea­sons. When I won the award it gave me cred­i­bil­ity with my agency. It did my per­sonal con­fi­dence good. It gave pic­ture ed­i­tors con­fi­dence in back­ing me for for­eign as­sign­ments, which is what I did pre­dom­i­nantly for nearly the next ten years af­ter that. Yeah, it was def­i­nitely a turn­ing point in my ca­reer.” Af­ter the Photo Es­say of the Year, Roger went on to win the Nikon News Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year, as well as awards in World Press Photo and other in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

Roger Hutch­ings has three bod­ies of work that have at­tracted crit­i­cal ac­claim: Thatcher’sBri­tain, a long-term so­cial doc­u­men­tary about Britain; Bos­nia, a re­flec­tion on the civil war in Yu­goslavia; and Ataturk’sChil­dren, which ex­am­ines the Turk­ish Kurds’ strug­gle for self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. For more info, visit roger­hutch­ings.com

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