Excerpted from 'The Image, Deconstructed':
Photographer Joshua Trujillo:
I am from a culture where elders are respected. So when I saw a woman who looked older than my own grandmother, yelling and choking from the pepper spray, my heart skipped a beat. I quickly gathered myself and walked toward her to document the aftermath.
At that moment, the protesters were not thrilled that I was there. I was being yelled at, told to “get out of here,” and shoved. Ms. Rainey, who was choking from the effects of the spray, actually mustered up enough energy to swear at another reporter who was asking if she was okay. Ms. Rainey was a mess. She was coughing and having trouble opening her eyes. She had a milky solution splashed in her face and was now agitated, along with the rest of the crowd.
Reading body language is important in situations like these. But in this case, words were also exchanged suggesting I was not welcome there. There was quite a bit a swearing and some shoving from the people escorting her away. The scene moved fast and emotions were high as people coughed and struggled to breathe. But as I see it, the potential news value and uniqueness of the situation overrode the subjects' desires at that moment.
I keep a list in my head when making photos in sensitive situations, especially ones where I am not sure I am welcome. News value is at the top of that list. The unique nature of a scene is probably the second element I consider. Coming in third place is compassion for a subject. I always try to work with compassion. A subject's desire to control the situation, and in effect control me, is much farther down the list. So that never really factored into my decision-making that night. I knew I had something unique, but I didn't realize how the image would later explode.
To learn more about Joshua Trujillo and his image of Dorli Rainey, visit 'The Image, Deconstructed'.