By Tim Marshall.
The thing which strikes me about this photo is the remnants of the tree in the centre of the picture.
I took it on an ordinary Iphone 4 with no add ons. I’m no photographer, but it came out ok and gives the sense of a battle ground. For reasons I forget I was without a cameraman/woman that day and so ventured out on my own to get a feel of things.
We were about 100 yards off Cairo’s Tahrir Sq. The road from where the tear gas canister had been fired led to a government building the authorities were trying to prevent protestors from reaching.
The tree had been stripped of its branches by protestors to be used as weapons. Just to its right you can see a professional cameraman wearing a helmet trying to get a shot. In the foreground there’s a man wearing a facemask in a futile attempt to guard against the gas. In front of him a man is wearing goggles, these did work and most of the journalists ended up using them.
After a few minutes I moved to the right to look down the street. A tear gas canister came barreling over the barricades in an arc towards me. It was one of the most surreal experiences of the trip. Normally I would either hit the deck or run to one side, but time seemed to slow down, my peripheral vision blurred, and all I could see was the canister heading straight at my head. It was like living a movie scene. The only thing in sharp focus was the canister. Because it seemed to move so slowly, I just stared at it, and with perhaps two seconds to go, pivoted on my left foot, turned sideways, and saw it flash past my face about a foot away. It bounced down the street, skipping into a crowd of youths who scattered.
Two years later during the second coup d’etat I was standing below the balconies on the block of flats to the right of picture amid a rock-throwing crowd.
Unbeknownst to us, a squad of riot cops had made their way to the compound housing the large green tree you can see. They suddenly popped up and began firing tear gas and birdshot over the wall. I was about 50 yards from them. I turned to run, got a few yards, then felt a sharp hot pain in my lower left back. I’d been hit with several pellets. Thankfully I’d put distance between the gun and me. Only a few pellets broke the skin, and it felt no worse than perhaps being stung by several wasps. I was just thankful I’d not been facing the other way and that they hadn’t aimed higher up.