In a weekend plagued by violent protests and riots across Northern Ireland, it was a regional daily photographer who captured the atmosphere perfectly with an iconic picture which has since been shown around the world.
David Fitzgerald, a young photographer for the Belfast Telegraph, managed to snap the blink-and-you’d-miss-it moment a Loyalist protester was blasted from the roof of a police van with a water cannon.
The arresting image was used for Saturday’s splash, and before long the picture had gone viral on social media sites with comments flowing in from as far afield as Switzerland and the USA.
David said the picture – and the impact it has had around the world – showed how important photojournalism still was in an age where most phones have cameras, and many newspapers are relying on reader pictures to fill their pages.
“It gets people talking. This picture shocked people, it made them debate, it made some people laugh and it triggered emotions,” he told the BelTel.
Among those commenting on the picture was Sky News’ Ireland correspondent David Blevins, who Tweeted: “Don’t bother entering the best press picture competition. @DavieFitzgerald has already won it. Iconic image.” This itself was re-Tweeted more than 70 times and was used throughout the nationals on Sunday, appeared online for UTV and was praised on BBC Ulster.
Compliments have also flooded in from other professional photographers, including Charles McQuillan, Alan Lewis and Justin Kernoghan.
David had been dispatched to the scene as violence flared in the Woodvale area of north Belfast – and managed to secure a position stood on a windowsill in someone’s home, on the other side of the crowd to the rest of the media.
“Part of me could see it coming. I saw the man on the police van and I just knew what would happen if he got hit because he was so close,” he said.
“But did I expect it to be so dramatic? No way. This is the biggest reaction I’ve ever got from a photograph, it’s huge.”
He took the picture with a Canon 1D Mark III using a 70-200mm lens.