How I came to photograph Bloody Sunday

Issue section: 
(349)

What made our photographs on Bloody Sunday so important was the fact that there were only two photojournalists on the spot, myself and the Frenchman Gilles Peress, when the Paras came in shooting and killing.

Most of the pictures of that massacre were taken by me in the midst of the panicking, screaming, dying crowd of innocent and defenceless marchers for civil rights. There is a collection of them in Blood in the Street, an account I wrote immediately after that experience and after the ridiculous and offensive Widgery inquiry. The book is distributed by the families of the victims.

What made it possible for these pictures and, even more importantly, for my sound recordings, which proved that only the British Sterling machine gun had been fired, to acquire worldwide relevance and become fundamental evidence at the Saville inquiry, was the fact that we managed to escape the British army's efforts to arrest me and confiscate all the revealing material.

The army radio had put through an order to all its units to get hold of me "by whatever means". But this message was intercepted by the local resistance and I was immediately whisked away and hidden in a house deep in the Bogside, where the British troops didn't dare to penetrate.

At night, and it was a very cold and foggy night, Martin McGuinness, a great friend, put me in a car and, driving through small country roads known only to the locals, succeeded in avoiding all road blocks and got me over the border. Here other members of the movement took me at a crazy speed to Dublin, in time for the first Irish TV news and for a reprint of the Dublin dailies.

Photographs, recordings and my account thus got the better of General Ford who, at 6pm the previous night, had announced on TV that his paratroopers had been attacked and had been forced to defend themselves, causing a few casualties.

The first brick for an honest inquiry into one of the most brutal manifestations of state terrorism had been laid.


Eyewitness to state murder