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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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June 12, 2008 10:34 PM

News: Homeless Protest at City Hall

Posted by Rod Mar

With the Mariners out-of-town, I was assigned to photograph a protest of the city's homelessness policies that was being organized by the Real Change Organizing Project.

The event was designed to raise awareness with some speeches and a sleepout on the steps of City Hall.

While I envisioned a long-exposure shot of tents jamming the plaza in front of the building in the darkness, an 7:30pm deadline and a 9:30pm sunset precluded and such thoughts of beautiful light.

I also was aware that the protest might spill into the streets. In the past, the protests haven't heated up until the next morning, when protesters can actually mess with traffic, so that probably wasn't going to be in my cards on this night, either (as it turned out, the protest did spill into the streets the next morning and some were arrested).

I arrived early, and photographed Steve Araujo, who works at El Centro de la Raza, setting up his tent in the plaza.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 19mm, ISO 640, 1/250th sec.,f9.0)

While supporters and sympathizers to the cause came to sleep in their tents (some were so new that they'd never been unpacked, much less set-up), some of Seattle's homeless community came to partake of the food and support the cause, but lacking their own tents, chose to sleep where they usually sleep -- on the streets.

Currently homeless, Chapo Cheto, left, Benny Shora (seated) and Ceasar Villegas crashed on the hard cement of the plaza in front of City Hall.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 20mm, ISO 640, 1/250th sec.,f8.0)

Some graduate students from the University of Washington had created and were erecting a memorial to those homeless folks who had passed away. The memorial featured colored tiles that let some light through, and I was drawn to them. I made some interesting frames of the students setting up the memorial, but since the event was about the homeless, I wanted to make them a part of my final image.

Things came together when I finally took the camera away from my eye and really took a good look around. That's when I found Merlyn Parker (in AC/DC hat) selling Real Change newspapers and was able to shoot him through the colorful tiles.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 145mm, ISO 640, 1/200th sec.,f5.0)

Shooting a general news event is a nice change and a way for me to keep thinking about making visually interesting images while telling stories. Sports is fun, but it is also a very controlled atmosphere. Having to make my own decisions and having the freedom (and challenge) of finding my own angles is a good way to keep my news senses sharp.

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