Often, when I show my portfolio to someone for the first time I'm asked, "Where were you when this happened?" or "How did you get that photo?" Those questions have inspired me to begin The Backstory, a series about the creation of some of my favourite images.
It seemed fitting to begin with this photo from the G20 riots as I consider my experience on June 26, 2010 my 'baptism of fire.' It was also the day I realized I needed to follow my heart and commit to photojournalism.
Prior to June 2010 I spent my first year as a student photojournalist and photography manager with The Cord covering mostly arts related stories as news didn't excite me (oh how that would change).
On Saturday June 26 I headed to Toronto. I originally planned to meet with a reporter, but we went in separate directions. She chose to cover the diplomatic side of the summit and I decided my place was out in the streets with thousands of Torontonians.
To date it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
My coverage of the peaceful protests began at Queen's Park, worked its way south to Queen Street and then west toward Spadina Avenue. As people surged forward I gradually let myself slip to the back of the protest which is where I found myself when I reached the corner of Queen and Spadina at 3 p.m. I quickly noticed almost everyone present was stopped and wearing black, many already covering their faces. As I began shooting, I remember a bystander saying, "They don't want you doing that man." I responded that it was my job and continued to shoot, but more cautiously.
When I saw a person in all black light a road flare I knew things were about to get crazy. I ran over and started taking photos, eventually getting the image attached to this post. When the flare went out, the Black Bloc charged past what remained of the police escort and ran back east along Queen Street.
I teamed up with Toronto Star photojournalist Steve Russell (though I didn't know it at the time) and we watched each other's backs, dodging kicks and punches as we chased the Bloc into Toronto's financial zone.
As protestors began to torch police cars, I watched a group of photographers put on kevlar helmets and prepare gas masks. Armed only with a handkerchief and can of cola to counteract any potential teargas I made a mental about investing in more protective gear.
At some point we teamed up with a few other photojournalists, including Eduardo Lima, and narrowly escaped being kettled by police thanks to a kind security guard who led us through a mall.
After that I parted ways with Steve and lost track of the Bloc. My riot experience was effectively over.
Drenched in sweat and cameras, lucky not to be in custody, I found another group of peaceful protestors facing off against riot police threatening to teargas them. I made friends with Michael Hudson and as he took a portrait of me I thought, "I can't ever give this up."