The Famous Tiananmen Square Tank Man Photo From Slightly Different Views

Most people are familiar with the famous Tank Man photo taken by AP Photographer Jeff Widener as tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square on June 5th, 1989. Taken from a 6th floor balcony of the Beijing hotel, the iconic version we’ve come to know is only one of 4 very similar photos taken that same moment.

Each photographer: AP photographer Jeff Widener, Newsweek photographer Charlie Cole, Magnum photographer Stuart Franklin, and Reuters photographer Arthur Tsang all captured almost the exact same moment from slightly different perspectives.

All four photos manage to capture the essence of that politically charged moment, but for some reason it was Jeff Widener’s that was widely reproduced. Maybe it was something about his composition, maybe it’s because the tank man seems almost to be hesitating with his body turned slightly away, but truthfully we’ll never know. Sometimes it’s not enough for a photographer to be in the right place at the right time, you have to capture the perfect moment as well.

(via ALTFoto)

  • Vylen

    Four tanks are better than three. Which might be better than four and a half.. and parked/blocked tanks are better than ones still rolling in… perhaps?

  • MrRocking

    Still one of the most affecting pieces of footage i’ve ever seen.

  • Osmosisstudios

    I remember reading an article at some point that outlined people shooting from that balcony, but also from other vantage points from the ground.  Amazing moment captured from so many different points of view.

  • Barns

    For a ground perspective of tank-man right before he confronted those tanks, there is a photo shot by Terril Jones that was released 20 years later.

  • Mark E. Johnson

    “All four photos manage to capture the essence of that politically charged moment, but for some reason it was Jeff Widener’s that was widely reproduced. ”

    The “some reason” was that the Associated Press had the largest distribution network in the world at the time. Reuters and Magnum had a much smaller number of clients and Newsweek had, well, Newsweek. 

  • eric christey
  • mellangatang
  • mellangatang
  • MillsLula39

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  • GlossGreen

    I agree. There are too few photographs out there that elicit a strong response from me. This one does every time. That guy had true courage.

  • Curious

    Why is Jeff Widener’s image the only one that doesn’t show TWO shopping bags but only one?

  • Curiouser

    The Widener photo is after he jumped down. Notice in the video he puts the white bag in his left hand with the other bag. You can see it in the photo.

  • MacAdvisor

    I don’t want to sound like a spoiler, but the photo isn’t the big deal. It is the man’s actions that matter, not who took the photograph. This man does something wonderful and brave, yet his name is unknown, yet the man who merely (and I mean that) snaps a shot of the great deed (and, from what I understand, safely from a hotel room window) is famous.

  • KushSmoke AndTruth

    There were right around 50 tanks that you can see in a zoomed out photo taken by one of the other photographers ….. there’s probably hundreds more outside camera range. One of the photographers that was there that day said that the line of tanks went on for over a mile.