Award-winning Everard vigil photographer: Pictures got the story out

Photographer of the year Hannah McKay of Reuters on iconic Clapham Common vigil image

Everard vigil photo was taken by Hannah McKay of Reuters

Reuters photographer Hannah McKay has said that photojournalists were key to spreading news about police handling of the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard in March – despite people “pointing their fingers” at them.

McKay won the 2021 British Journalism Award for photojournalism for her depiction of the notorious arrest of physics student Patsy Stevenson at the vigil. 

Judges said: “The winning image captured an iconic moment and will form an essential part of the historic record of British life in 2021.”

McKay award winning Everard photograph
Police detain Patsy Stevenson as people gather and protest at a memorial site in Clapham Common Bandstand, following the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, in London, Britain March 13, 2021. Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay

Speaking to Press Gazette after receiving the award, McKay said: “There was quite a lot of controversy over it at the time.

“You know, people were trying to point their fingers at protestors, people were trying to point their fingers at the police, people were trying to point their fingers at the photographers, but at the end of the day, if we weren’t there documenting what had happened, the cause would have never been known.”

Journalists at the vigil were accused by some of being inadequately sensitive to the occasion, in particular by taking up positions on the bandstand that was the focus of the event. Other critics said reporters had sensationalised or politicised the police response.

McKay said that once her photo was out, “because I worked at Reuters, which is an international agency, it went from a South London local story to one of international interest. And then it started off all the Kill the Bill protests, and whether or not you agree on what they were there for, it got talked about. And that’s probably what’s important… in that situation, is that people were talking about what women were worried about.”

McKay in 2018 jointly received a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for Reuters’ capturing of the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar.

The Clapham Common vigil followed the murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, a marketing executive living in Brixton Hill, London, by Wayne Couzens, then a serving police officer. Couzens had been identified as the suspect by media days before the vigil, which went ahead despite Metropolitan Police instructions to comply with Covid-19 restrictions and stay away.

McKay’s was not the only image from the vigil that made it into the British Journalism Awards shortlist: Shutterstock Editorial’s James Veysey was nominated for another picture of Stevenson’s detention.

Patsy Stevenson is arrested on the bandstand of Clapham Common, following a vigil to Sarah Everard. 13 March 2021. Picture: James Veysey/Shutterstock Editorial

McKay told Press Gazette: “What happened to Sarah Everard, even though people don’t know her personally, everybody could relate to what had happened, and I think that — that night, whatever happened, really started momentum about this stuff, what women go through on a daily basis. And I think the fact that it was by a serving police officer just added to people’s anger, because they’re the people we’re supposed to be protected by.

“I was there all afternoon, so I watched thousands of people bring in flowers. It was really moving, actually, to watch all these people who didn’t know each other or Sarah come together in support of her.”

Picture:  Reuters/Hannah McKay



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1 thought on “Photographer of the year Hannah McKay of Reuters on iconic Clapham Common vigil image”

  1. Unfortunately all this picture did was what the interlopers at the vigil wanted, which was to hijack the event for the Kill the Bill campaign.

    Up until the arrival of Sisters Uncut and Women’s Strike (along with the SWP) it was a peaceful and respectful vigil in line with the wishes of the Everard family not to have a political event.

    So a small group armed with megaphones and political placards unlike everyone else, encouraged a crowd surge towards a small spot, by pretending they were part of the event and were being prevented from speaking.

    Had the surge got out of hand and people got trampled the police would have been blamed for that.

    And in fact the photo relied on inherent sexism. ie what happens at nearly any demo in London when male protestors go out of their way to act in a way that gets a police reaction it would just have been another run of the mill the “usual suspects” parasitically coopted an event for their individualistic actions.

    And anyone knows, particulary if you have predemo training, that you go floppy rather than move along as asked by the police.

    So far from being a positive image, this is how photographers who seem to have about as much political nous as an excitbable toddler allow the mainstream media to continue to misreport.

    So this photo allowed the media not to focus on society wide male violence, but became a narrow simplistic campaign about male violence in the police.

    the photo was share worldwide because it was an attractive woman ie it pandered to reactionary sexist standards. If you went into mental health institutions you would see women being manhandled like this on a daily basis. The photo just relied on people who think women dont face violence every day. Not forgetting the two women a week who die in their own home.

    So well done. The photographer just became the useful idiot of those who have no interest in campaigning to end male violence, and just another cliched adolescent male political pantomime politics.

    Shame on peddling politics on misleading image.

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