Wednesday 13 July 2011

Auntie Anne - the making of an iconic image

Among the scores of photos and video recordings on the Bersih 2.0, one subject stands out - dressed in a bright yellow T-shirt and holding white chrysanthemums, she is drenched after being doused with chemical-laced water outside the Tung Shin Hospital.

NONEFormer English teacher Anne Ooi, 65, has become the defining image of the rally - and has quickly been dubbed 'the Malaysian Lady of Liberty' and 'Bersih Aunty'. She now has a Facebook following as well.

Photographer Hugo Teng told Malaysiakini that he took the photo while running towards Wisma Magnum, from the Chinese Maternity Hospital, to escape the police who were moving in to arrest rally participants.

The Chinese Maternity Hospital is situated next to Tung Shin Hospital, while Wisma Magnum is opposite the two hospitals on Jalan Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.

“I wanted to get into the Chinese Maternity Hospital compound over the gate, but I saw the policemen rushing in to arrest people, so I changed my mind and ran to Wisma Magnum. On my way, I saw an elderly woman facing a big team of riot police.

“I NONEsuddenly felt the instinct to take a photo and then the riot police started to shoot at her with the water cannon... she could not take it and turned her back and walked away from the police.”

Teng recorded that moment on his compact camera, and it has gone on to become an iconic image of the rally.

He said he spotted Auntie Anne at the start of the rally, his eye caught by the fact that she is a senior citizen.

“That is also why there are a lot of photos of her being circulated on the Internet. I was not the only one who took her photo that day,” said Teng, a former photographer with the Chinese-language daily Oriental Daily News.

Malaysiakini had interviewed Auntie Anne as she was walking alone along Petaling Street on the morning of the rally.

"I am old, but I am walking because they are taking away my freedom. I can't even wear a yellow shirt now,” she had said.
"When I was young I didn't do anything. I was in the education service and I had to stomach (misgovernance) like sheep because it was my bread and butter.”

This was the second time she participated in a Bersih rally - she had taken part in the first one in November 2007.

'Beautiful mistake'

Teng said he has covered many rallies as a news photographer, but that the Bersih 2.0 gathering was his first as a participant. He now works freelance.

NONE“This was the first time I participated without wearing a media pass.

“I was scared. I had a job to complete on Sunday. I was worried that I may be arrested and that it would affect my job.”

He did not expect to become another 'iconic image' - albeit inadvertently - after a photo showing bloody bruises on his face was widely circulated on the Internet. Netizens are now citing this as 'evidence' of police brutality.

However, Teng clarified that this was a “beautiful mistake” - his injuries were from a bicycle accident on the way to the rally.

“Many people hNONEave asked me whether I was punched by the police, but I've kept clarifying that this was due to a bicycle accident,” said the keen cyclist, who has reinforced the explanation with a message on his Facebook wall.

Given the reactions to both photos, Teng mused: “Whether good or bad, it is clear that the Internet has a domino effect in spreading information.”

And this happens almost instantaneously too - as Teng was making his way home after the rally, a fellow-participant asked to take a photo with him.

“He told me 'I saw your photo in Malaysiakini ...' and insisted on doing so, even after I explained that my injuries were not due to police action.”

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