Seeing the evil deeds of merciless tyrants

—The events unfolding in Ukraine reminded Craig Redmond of a Leica ad honouring the work of photojournalists—

Some years after the infamous massacre, I found myself walking Tiananmen Square on an eerie midnight eve.

We were in Beijing filming a commercial, and after a long day’s shoot and a very late dinner, the director, my producer and I decided to stop there on the way back to our hotel.

The first thing that struck me was the magnitude of the place. Imagine walking down the centre of the 401 highway in Toronto, or the 405 in L.A, without a car in sight, and that will give you a sense of the breadth and scale of the promenade. Then, consider that at the height of the student protest, there were one million people peacefully assembled there.

We walked in silence and several strides apart. I recognized how deeply emotional this moment must have been for my Chinese friends, and so kept a respectful distance. Suddenly, a thick fog descended upon us, and we disappeared from each other’s sight. Only then did I hear the two of them begin to sob and console one another.

That’s when it struck me that we were likely very close to the spot where that anonymous hero once stood, immovably defiant in front of an ominous Chinese tank, and where thousands of young defenceless students were mercilessly slaughtered.

That moment came screaming back this past weekend, when I saw a lone Ukrainian gentleman on TV, kneeling in front of a Russian tank powering its way into the outskirts of Kyiv.

It was another “I can’t believe what I’m seeing” moment, in what has been an endless procession of inconceivable moments these past few years: Donald Trump. Covid perpetuity. The Jan. 6 insurrection. Western wildfires, followed by B.C. floods. And now, 190,000 Russian troops invading a peaceful, democratic nation, held miraculously at bay by an outmanned, outgunned opposition and defenceless civilians fashioning Molotov cocktails in their shelled-out apartment kitchens.


And right behind those overwhelmed Ukrainian soldiers and a courageous, makeshift civilian militia are a bunch of equally heroic journalists, risking their lives while armed only with a camera and an unyielding will to survive.

The moments they are capturing for the world to see will cement Vladimir Putin’s place in historic infamy, along with the countless other evil tyrants before him who committed mass atrocities from within the refuge of their own fortressed, palace walls.

These are the moments we all remember where we were when we witnessed their tragedy.

Like when I was closing up the restaurant where I bartended and looked up at the TV screen to see CNN bearing witness to one of the most unforgettable preludes to one of history’s darkest moments. And I just stood there, transfixed, watching that man with his shopping bags standing in front of, and then climbing onto, a tank leading its battalion into Tiananmen Square.

This effort from a few years ago, on behalf of Leica cameras, recalls that moment and many other such dire circumstances that journalists thrust themselves into, just like those recording the vicious assault on Ukraine that is unfolding today.

It puts things into perspective, using the only weapon a photojournalist can wield. Their lens.

Craig Redmond