I completely omitted this photograph when I made the initial edit from the student protest in London (November 8, 2010). I remember the moment when the fire extinguisher was thrown off the roof so clearly. It was, like in a photograph, as if time stopped. I can’t explain the many thoughts that crossed my mind in the brief instance that it took for that object to drop to the ground, but they were all terrifying. The most terrifying though was that someone would definitely be killed the moment that the extinguisher got to ground level. Miraculously this did not happen. I don’t know if we owe this miracle to the police or the students, but in that moment, police and students, for as brief as it was, were on the same side of the gun.
I do not wish to enter in the meaning of this moment, but I will say that it shows a break in the comradeship of students. For the fight at the time became not against the establishment, but against the activists who were at the time on the roof. Perhaps, if we get more philosophical, we were fighting ourselves, who until then were supporting what was going on. And many still cheered after this happened.
Now, as a photographer I thought that the image could have been stronger if I would have been closer to the falling object, and captured both the expressions of the people and the extinguisher. Having thought about this photograph for some time now, I’ve realized that the image is actually stronger as it’s been shot. The space that the extinguisher occupies in the surface of the photograph is insignificant. Then there are the people on who can be barely spotted on the roof, and the crowd of police and students in the bottom. This insignificance of the extinguisher in mid flight on the photograph becomes an allegory of the whole reason for the demonstration. On the one hand, it shows how insignificant the person who threw it thought this act was (and how insignificantly small his brain was too). On the other hand, it represents what the government has done to students. At this point of the day, the activists on the roof have taken the place of the institution, and in this act, metaphorically illustrated what the government has done by raising student fees. They’ve dropped a bomb on our heads and everyone else who was there (ie the police) while they sit in Parliament and politicize education.