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Number 1 Shimbun

FCCJ Exhibition ‘Tank Man’: Charlie Cole memorial photo exhibition

08 04


Charlie Cole won the World Press Photo of the Year in 1989 for his instantly recognizable “Tank Man” photo that depicted a lone protester staring down four tanks in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.

The American photographer passed away aged 64 at his home in Bali in early September after apparently suffering complications from a motorcycle injury he sustained in Japan in the late 1990s.

Cole arrived in Japan in 1980, and over the next two decades, he shot many telling moments in and around Asia for publications including Newsweek, Time, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. 

When Newsweek sent him to China in late June 1989, to cover the student protests, his presence on a hotel balcony overlooking Tiananmen Square incurred the wrath of Chinese authorities who, within minutes, forced their way into his room to retrieve the film. But Cole, suspecting a possible visit, hid the roll inside the lid of his toilet. Managing to avoid police surveillance, Cole brought the precious image to the Associated Press office in Beijing and had it immediately transmitted to Newsweek in the U.S.

“I think his action (the white-shirted man) captured people’s hearts everywhere, and when the moment came, his character defined the moment rather than the moment defining him,” Cole told a BBC interviewer in 2005.

Charlie, we will not forget you.

Published in: December 2019

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