From anti-racist protester to accidental hero
Can a chance photo change society? Patrick Hutchinson became a public figure this summer after he rescued a man at a Black Lives Matter march. Now, he is using his fame to fight inequality.
In June in London, a protest was out of control. It was two weeks after the murder of George Floyd, tensions were at a boiling point.
Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched along the banks of the River Thames, and a counter-protester was surrounded. He was injured. His life was in danger.
A black man emerged and lifted the man over his shoulder and carried him away.
The next day, Patrick Hutchinson’s photo was on the front page of UK newspapers. The 50-year-old personal trainer was catapulted to fame.
Hutchinson was born in south London to Jamaican parents. His mother raised him. Racism was part of his life.
At 20, his son was born and he found a job.
Despite his success, the racism continued.
A friend had persuaded Hutchinson’ to go to the protest.
The man he rescued, Bryn Male, insisted he was not racist.
Hutchinson received a letter from the city’s mayor and has spoken to Al Sharpton and Prince Harry.
Not everyone thinks he should symbolise the movement. A mural of Hutchinson was vandalised, “we don’t want racists in Lewisham, we run them out” painted on it.
“It wasn’t just about saving a life, it was about saving a narrative,” Hutchinson says.
He wants to help others. He has written a book, Everyone versus Racism: A Letter to My Children, and set up a charity to fight racial inequality in Britain.
He wants to focus on education, and find mentors for black children.
Can a chance photo change society?
Yes. The photograph has symbolic power. Hutchinson’s has become a symbol of individual goodness in a divided society. He is using his fame to make changes with his new charity.
No. One photograph cannot change the world. Individual acts cannot put a stop to racism. It is governments that make changes. It is the power we give to elected rulers that matters most.
- Do we have a duty to help anyone in need, regardless of who they are?
- Draw a picture of Patrick Hutchinson rescuing a counter-protester at the Black Lives Matter march.
Some People Say...
“The ordinary man is involved in action, the hero acts. An immense difference.”Henry Miller (1891 - 1980), American writer and artist
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- It is generally agreed that photographs play a huge part in how a news story is told. In September 1957, a photographer in Arkansas, USA, captured an image of black teenager Elizabeth Eckford being harassed by white students at her school, four years after segregation was outlawed in America. Some residents had accused the national press of over-inflating claims of racism, but the photograph provided irrefutable proof that the problem was real.
- What do we not know?
- One main area of debate surrounds the ethics of photojournalism, particularly for photographers who work with extremely vulnerable people. In 2011, prize-winning Italian photographer Alessio Mamo took a series of photos in which poor children in India posed next to a table covered with fake food. Mamo said the photographs taught a Western audience “in a provocative way, about the waste of food”. But critics said he had violated photographic ethics and robbed the children of their dignity.
- George Floyd
- An African-American man who was killed in the US city of Minneapolis in May this year, when a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
- As well as the Black Lives Matter demonstrators, there were also protestors from far-right groups such as the English Defence League.
- Bryn Male
- The former British Transport Police officer insisted that he was a “passionate Brit”, not a racist.
- Al Sharpton
- Reverend Al Sharpton is an American civil rights activist, Baptist minister and politician. In 2004, he ran unsuccessfully to be the Democratic nominee for the US presidency.
- The charity, United to Change and Inspire, will focus on education but also policy change. “We hope to be the glue in between communities and decision makers”, said Hutchinson.