Sunday, 14 November 2010


One photograph dominated the front page of the newspapers last Thursday morning. The picture of a protester kicking in a glass window on Wednesday’s student demonstration in London.


The picture is a powerful image and encapsulates events on the demonstration as reported by most of the media. No excuse for the violence and vandalism. Dismay amongst the many peaceful marchers whose arguments were undermined. Student leaders scrambling to condemn and explain that they weren’t responsible, apart from a few attention seekers hawking themselves round the television and radio studios claiming the law breaking was justified.

But is this the whole picture? In this case, quite literally, it is not. Here is the scene from a slightly wider angle.


What we see is not massed ranks of students egging on the protester, but a horde of photographers jostling for the best shot. I am not saying this excuses the vandalism, however, it does demonstrate the different perspective given by the bigger picture. To what extent did the presence of so many photographers act as an encouragement to the vandalism? Why aren’t the police, visible behind the photographers, stepping in to stop a criminal act?

Sometimes when we are close in on the action we get a distorted impression or see only part of the picture. We need to step back a bit, see the wider view and get things in perspective in order to make more informed judgements and draw more considered conclusions.

Perhaps this is true for us as Christians. We can be so caught up in, or focused on, a particular issue or situation that we lose sight of the wider view. We fail to see the fuller purposes of God from our limited perspective and occasionally we need to step back and see God’s bigger picture.

(Jonathan Jones in The Guardian has some interesting reflections on why this particular image was so popular amongst the media.)


Revsimmy said...

One of my favourite TV ads from a few years ago was for the Guardian. It showed what was ostensibly an attack on an elderly lady perpetrated by a skinhead. However, when the scene was replayed from a different angle it was revealed that the skinhead was actually pushing her out of the path of a falling heavy object. This gave a very different meaning to the action.

I have always found it comforting that God sees the big picture where so often we have only a limited view of what might be going on.

Becca said...

I love the message, but I'm not too sure about the example. One of the main problems identified was that there simply weren't enough police. They put themselves in danger daily, so it seems a bit much to ask them to throw themselves in front of some hideous person hell-bent on violence.

It's such a pity that that the first taste of political activity students get is a pointless parade made worse by a bunch of thugs.

Philip Ritchie said...

Hi Simon, I also remember the Guardian advert, very powerful.

Becca, thanks for the comment. I didn't intend to come across as critical of the police and fully appreciate the difficult task they faced (I have several close friends who are serving officers). My point was that in the first photo you can't really see any police but in the second there are some police behind the photographers which raised the question. Perhaps, I could have expressed this with more clarity.