The iconic “Tank Man” photo from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests was taken 25 years ago today.
Many people remember only the close-up shot, but the wide angle is even more powerful.
Here’s the original:
The close-up captures the tension of a lone man standing unarmed in front of a line of giant tanks that were part of the Chinese government’s effort to disperse the protesters.
The wide angle gives even more context to the man’s bravery and shows the scope of his resistance. As it turns out, he wasn’t just facing a line of four tanks — he was facing more than a dozen.
Logan Dobson pointed this out on Twitter:
The photo above was taken by Stuart Franklin for Time magazine. Another shot from Reuters (with the photographer posing in front of a projection of it) shows an even wider angle:
The man remains anonymous to this day, and it’s not known what happened to him after the protests that day.
In a story about the mystery of Tank Man’s fate 25 years after the deadly pro-democracy protests, The Los Angeles Times described what was happening as the photo was taken:
The lead vehicle halted. It moved right and left to avoid the defenseless man. Each time, he adjusted his position to remain in the tank’s path. Finally, he shifted the bags to one hand, jumped onto the tank and appeared to talk to its driver.
The standoff, just east of the square, was captured by newspaper photographers and TV news crews. The standoff lasted but a few minutes, but was so tense with drama that witnesses recall it feeling like an eternity.
Hundreds, or possibly even thousands, died during the demonstrations as Chinese soldiers opened fire on crowds in the square. The government has never disclosed how many died and China has worked to erase the bloody event from the country’s history.
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