Embarrassed to Photograph Ferguson


I’ve spent the past week down in Ferguson, MO covering the protests and police response. What I never expect was to find myself embarrassed to photograph but it happened on Tuesday 8/19/14.


The day started out with residents cleaning up the neighborhood and the unrelated death of another black male in the St. Louis area. Protestors marched peacefully with little trouble with the police.


When the skies turn dark is when troublemakers come out which has led to night-after-night of violence in this small community. Expecting the worst, an increasing amount of amateur, foreign and domestic journalists came into town. At one point there appeared to be as many media members as there were protestors.


At or around Midnight between August 19th and 20th a few protestors threw water bottles at police on this very humid night in Ferguson which drew out a response from officers.


Journalists came out in droves to photograph and record the tensions and issues that arose throughout the night. At one point after arresting a woman, police were surrounded on three sides by the media.


A woman was pepper sprayed and a civilian medic needed to attend to her which brought the media to completely surround her and the medic.


To me this is the point where the media is no longer simply reporting what is happening but rather becoming a hindrance and making the situation worse. Over the past few days journalists have been a part of inciting protestors by getting dangerously close and not always following police orders.


Tonight when ordered to disperse by police, the media and protestors became one group with cameras and raised hands intertwined. Officers requested multiple times that the media back away and return to the police staging ground though very few left and rather continued to photograph the scene.


I am no saint. I photographed alongside everyone tonight and was part of the problem. I refused to follow police orders and only moved when threatened by arrest or with the flow of the crowd.


I am embarrassed by the way the media acted tonight, myself included and have decided that the media is now a problem in Ferguson. I will be leaving Missouri in the morning while hundreds of other journalists will continue to record events and battle with police for the right to be there.

About the author: Abe Van Dyke is a photographer based out of Waukesha, WI who specializes in spot news and concert photography. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook or Instagram. This article originally appeared here.

  • Wes

    I live in St. Louis and am a photojournalist who has refused to go to Ferguson at night because frankly, I don’t have a horse in this race and I don’t want to be a burden on the police or another one of these yahoos getting in the way. I did go down there last saturday morning and it was just a few locals calmly chatting and just trying to piece together the city that has been disturbed by the influx of outsiders, both media and looters.

  • dbw1977

    OK – i was wrong yesterday. While the media should be able to go and do what it wants, it’s only in its own way completely overwhelming the local police. It’s now looking (at least from these pics) as if it requires as much attention as the event that drew everyone there.

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • Dov

    So lets see if I get this right?

    The police coverup a shooting and then over react to the local backlash and protest and continue to over react.

    Its the people reporting on the issue who are the problem.

    Yeah gotya nothing here.

    Or maybe if the Police weren’t acting like amateur Gestapo the trouble makers wouldn’t have any ability to be trouble makers and this would de-escalate.

  • OtterMatt

    People who don’t even live in the St. Louis area are throwing molotovs, and your answer is for the police to do less? That’s brilliant. I refer you to the daytime protests which have gone on peacefully and without incident as evidence that the people who are actually protesting and the police have few to no issues with each other. And yes, the media is absolutely making things worse.

  • Ryan

    What’s embarrassing is the people rioting. The media is always embarrassing and making things worse; that’s understood in everything now a days.

  • Jack B. Siegel

    You certainly have redeemed yourself, if that was your intention–so good for you. Unfortunately, as good as your photos might be, they won’t be missed. There will be plenty of photos and videos from everyone else who does not take a similar arguably enlightened view of what they are doing.

  • Peter “Pots”

    I have always wondered what the Media’s agenda is. Something just isn’t right. Here I was blaming the people for displaying “good ole boy” mentality and I feel now that I was completely wrong. I live in CT and we have shootings almost every day yet there isn’t much coverage. Much of the shootings involve the minorities yet there isn’t much to-do about it. It is very hard to get the real facts on what is happening since it seems that each person has their own views (rightly or wrongly) on these events. The President and the Media have made this a National incident.

  • Dov

    You can point out all you want the reality is much different. And yes the police need to stand down

  • Tomas To-mas Halasz

    it looks that this photographer never been before on such a event. Too
    many journalists is the problem? That they dont go home whenever police
    say is the problem? So it would be better if police can do whatever they
    want because nobody would capture it?
    Dont you think that big amount of journalists captured by police in Ferguson is the problem?

  • Wesley

    The police didn’t cover up anything. The cover up came from Michael Brown’s family and his friends who claim to be witnesses. There are now at least a dozen actual witnesses that confirm the officer’s story and he has facial fractures to prove he was attacked.

  • Peter Gurdes

    americans…… i thank god every day that i don´t live in that sick country.

  • Mike Lerner

    and we’re glad you dont ;)

  • Dov

    Wesley mmm isn’t that the boy from TNG just saying anyway thanks for spewing right wing crap thats already being debunked online.

    Cause of course its important to slander black people because then they don’t get a fair trial.

    So really the police releasing the footage of brown as they announced they had shot him was just good reporting of course silly me.

    Please post a link to an actual accredited news source with that information and not a right wing blogosphere echo chamber ;-)

  • john papa

    “Officers requested multiple times that the media back away and return to the police staging ground though very few left and rather continued to photograph the scene.”

    That right there is called doing your job. Well done to the members of the media who didn’t retreat to the “police staging ground”.

  • James Wolowiec

    So your answer is to deny the police officer a fair trial? What have the police covered up exactly? The police gather facts/evidence THEN release it. They aren’t like certain lawyers or media members who jump on and then twist/mutate rumors that are released.

  • Aaron Lee Kafton

    I think what happened last night was the media was prepping for an escalation that didn’t happen. If tonight is uneventful as last night, expect the media presence to dwindle. I saw the same thing happen in my own town of Joplin Mo after the tornado. Media trucks were here by nightfall. I couldn’t walk 2 blocks without seeing news crews. I was also among them shooting for Reuters. As soon the story started getting just a little stale, they dissipated as quickly as they came, leaving it to locals.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Many people who don’t live here seem to say that. So how come so many people from where you are come here to live?

  • Dov

    LOL its fun checking out what you and the other troll are posting elsewhere so lets get to the point.

    Your last paragraph is the only one worth commenting since we have evidence the police seem to be leaking all this information about the guy who was shot. isn’t that kinda funny if they are so impartial in their duty that they can pardon the pun “police themselves”.

    And no its not to deny the police a fair trial but nice try wiring in a sounbite like that no its that a fair trial is going to happen which it isnisntt.

    The police have already started to poison the waters to prevent a fair trial. and have totally moved into coverup mode. If this were a white neighborhood and a white man shot you can bet those tubby boys in blue their last cognate that the police response and actions would be entirely differnt.

  • Dov

    Good answer totally jingoistic and utterly unaware

  • Dov

    Police staging ? oh you mean the are where the cops aren’t whats that thing about first amendment and the right to assemble.

  • Wesley

    Sorry, but I’m not a right winger; I’m a truth seeker and the truth is the “victim” is not a victim; he was a criminal who thought the officer was going to arrest him for robbing the store so he fought and he died. It’s sad but that’s the way it is sometimes when you choose a life of crime. Unlike you, I don’t care about race. If the dead man was white and the officer a minority I’d be saying the same thing. I sympathize with those that are unjustly persecuted but I do not have sympathy for criminals. In this case, Michael Brown chose his fate. As soon as the Grand Jury refuses to indict I suppose you’ll claim that’s a cover up as well. Here’s the funny thing about some minorities…they are more racist than those they claim are racist against them. Because the dead man was black and the officer white, it must be a racial issue because there’s no legitimate reason for a white officer to kill a black man. And when the facts come out that support the officer, it’s a cover up because white people always lie. Instead of claiming everyone is racist against them, maybe they need to look in the mirror and see if maybe their racism is a factor in their thinking. Instead of waiting for the facts, people like you fan the flames and create situations like we have here. And I do mean here…I live less than 10 minutes from Ferguson.

  • sshoihet

    It’s unfortunate that this “event” is being covered in such a manner… most of what is coming out of Ferguson is aimed solely at inciting conflict. The media should be unbiased and should be covering the daily, peaceful protests but most of this is not about the civil disobedience or the original incident, it’s about driving traffic to blogs and getting people to click on things.

    Many of the people that are calling themselves “media” are just self proclaimed bloggers with little real background in journalism, and no accountability for anything they write. Unfortunately, many of these “medial” are getting in the way of the police and risking their own lives as well as those of the people that have to babysit them.

    Many of these “media” are reporting whatever happens with no care for what the source is, and showing images which do not accurately portray much of what’s going on or without context that explains the situation.

    The real story should be about the people that live there, the protestors exercising their rights to be heard but unfortunately it’s now just about destruction which is mostly being caused by people who do not even live in the area and have come a long way across the country to cause trouble.

    The media is critical to our freedom and we need to know what’s going on int the world… but they’re supposed to report the news, not make it.

  • Dov

    No your a right winger did a pass on your posting history. nice spin writing do they send these out in a preset form letter style or just talking points to hit.

    For someone who’s just claimed to be a truth seeker you seem to be

    1. only concerned the cops get a fair trial

    2. unconcerned if the black guy gets one

    3. actively spreading stories about how the black guy is already guilty (What happened to that fair trial thing.

    4. utterly unconcerned at the cops calling residents of the town the N word or threatening to kill them on video while threatening them with guns.

    5. utterly glossing over the fact the town police are already releasing information to the right wind media to slander the dead man.

    6. the police are using tear gas and rubber riot bullets on unarmed civilians exercising their right to free assembly.

    7. do they pay you by the hour or the word I wonder)

    8. I asked you to post sone links to actually accredited news channels and not right wing blogs that are covering the information you’ve exposed about the officer being harmed.

    Still waiting

  • TN

    did you see the same stock image that’s floating around? bc i highly doubt you’ve seen the real x-ray scans, as that would be a violation of hipaa 0_o

  • Wesley

    Wrong on all accounts. We’ve been discussing the killing of Michael Brown by the police officer. Not once did I give my opinion on the behavior of the police toward protestors so I’m not sure why you seem to think you know my thoughts on that. If you want to discuss that, then fine. I’m in favor of the police using reasonable means to protect life and property. If they must use tear gar and rubber bullets on rioters and looters then so be it. But to do so on non-violent protestors is uncalled for. Contrary to the assumptions you have made, I don’t believe an overzealous police force benefits anyone of any race. Unacceptable behavior by any officer needs to be punished. But these are 2 different issues: there’s the Michael Brown incident and the police behavior toward protestors. Don’t assume because I support the officer in the first I blindly support all the police in the latter. As for my source, it came from a crime reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, far from a right wing source. And yes, the police are leaking this information to her and they shouldn’t be, but this behavior between police and journalists has been going on for generations. It’s no different than lawyers leaking information to the press. it’s tankard practice. That doesn’t make it right but that’s the way it is.

  • Matt Soda Potter

    No coverup, it’s an investigation. Why are they protesting if they don’t even know what happened? They need to learn patience.

  • Matt Soda Potter

    DOV, you really have no idea what Wing that person is in, maybe no wing at all. this isn’t a partisan issue in any sense.

  • Matt Soda Potter

    We are so sick, we rule the world and lead in immigration, so……….yeah, we are number one.

  • Wesley

    I didn’t look at the image; I read the post from the Post Dispatch reporter who says it was a “source”. I think the info is probably coming directly from the officer, the police apartment, or his lawyer so there’s no HIPPA violation. If the info did come from the hospital, then someone will be losing a job. I probably should be waiting for all evidence to be released before making a judgement-and I typically do-but my gut tells me the officer was justified. But I also have no problem being wrong. If the evidence leans the other way I have no problem switching my allegiance. I assure you, all I care about is the truth.

  • Dov

    SOrry just went to the St. Louis Post Dispatch website and outside of the police chief mentioning there was some facial damage (Un-confirmed) If the information your claiming was there it would be headline news and well its not.

    And again I asked for an actual news report with actual information. Did you talk with this person and well lets be honest who the hell are you lol just some guy on a website passing along hearsay information.

    Sadly the answer is the out of control police in what cashed the shooting and also why the police are well rioting.
    The police are firing teargas at people walking on the street because yeah its against the law and oh yea banned by our own military to be used the way its being used in regards to crowd control.

    And yeah your still not being honest you’ve started this whole thing with Brown is guilty and continue to do so. No gun and gun residue seems to point to the deceased being shot from a distance you know when he’s not a threat.

    But he’s guilty according to you and was asking for it. really how by stealing something.

  • Dov

    Well yeah lets see i do when I read what they are writing elsewhere like you and the interesting comments about Dem states being bad ??? really so your non partisan by writing about democrats or pushing Koch talking points. So yeah I can tell its called reading whats people have written about a subject.

  • Adrian S

    The problem with this is, that photojournalist don’t share. You don’t need 30+ photographers to document the same event. I know that each one is hired and sent to do the same job. But I think some form of collaboration should exists. Send in the people with best experience or simply draw straws, while the others stand back and relax, or are tasked with other things, like uploading media, and sending it to all news outlets.

    I’ve seen cameras shoved between people. Some film with GoPro cameras just because they are small enough to put them on a pole and film the boogers in someones nose from far away. It’s all crazy. Editors should stop forcing photojournalist to get that exclusive best shot.

  • Dov

    Well yeah because your still just a talking point bot. I mean really dude so the officer by your gut feeling now. No evidence required obviously innocent of killing someone

  • Dov

    Really so the cops after pulling out the fund and riot bass upfront and firing into unarmed civilians had nothing to do with pissing people off

  • Dov

    Oh and i didn’t say it was a partisan issue, you did I just pointed out that the punter was posting right wing talking points on the issue. Which are partisan and really you can’t get away from it you know the reality of politics. But its the first thing conservative pundits attack and try to remove. “Its not partisan”, “why so partisan” as off standing up for ones beliefs is a bad thing? you know like teabbagers and unapologetic rightwing bigots do all the time on fox and the blogoshpere. but when you call them on it it the refrain is how dare yo be partisan.

    Really just stuff lol

  • Wesley

    The only one posting partisan rhetoric is you. You continually insult conservatives and assume I am one despite me saying otherwise. So if I have an opinion that’s different from yours then i have to be a right winger. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Pot, meet kettle. I’m going to take this discussion elsewhere because you aren’t intelligent enough to carry on one without insults. You are a perfect example of the reason I am not a Republican or a Democrat. As soon as you give yourself that label your sense goes away.

  • Dov

    Well no but hey now your pulling the your partisan game end card. Dude all i commented was going through your postings on the posting D software used on this site. your posts all seem to be partisan talking point of the right wing nut variety.

    And in the perfect reason you represent no party except your espousing right wing talking points I its called reading comprehension. Its that thing like when someone claims they aren’t a bigot but then goes on a rant about how black people are a problem. Reading comprehension says that the person isn’t being honest.

  • pgb0517

    Hey, modern “journalists” (and I use the word pessimistically) — it’s not about who gets the most tweets, the most likes, the biggest adrenaline rush, or the mose up-close and emotional photos. It’s about who best represents the public’s need and right to know what’s going on, both among the authorities and the “protesters.” Take a deep breath, go review your journalism textbook (if you ever had one), and then do the job right.

  • Max_Taffey

    It’s pretty simple really. Media need content. They want to keep this alive as long as possible, therefore they are deliberately exacerbating the situation.

  • Vega

    The footage of brown was pretty important to understand what might have happened. Before it was released, the police claim seemed bizarre. Why would an unarmed teenager randomly attack an officer? All the media was reporting that the police for no reason shot an unarmed teenager 6 times. After the footage, it all makes sense. The coroner’s report and newest witnesses seem to support the police claim that Brown, at 6’4 and nearly 300 pounds fumbled for his gun and then charged him and was still coming forward when the 6th shot hit him.

  • Todd McDonald

    Return to the “Free Speech Zone”, citizen. You may practice your First Amendment rights over there in that pen behind the police barricades.

    This side of the barricades is the “Fourth Amendment Free Zone,” where we may stop and search anyone we please.

    Do not question my authority. My Taser and telescoping baton are itching to engage you hippies.

  • Lando

    If only there were producers who actually believed that

  • bob cooley


  • bob cooley

    We thank him right back.

  • bob cooley

    Good answer, totally ad hominem and utterly without substance.

  • Dov

    Except there is no gun and the footage has nothing to do with the incident of the police shooting him. But you just made it sound as if the footage was of him attacking the officer.

    The issue isn’t what happened awhile before the attempted arrest its why did an officer shoot an obviously unarmed man. We also have to ask why the police in general are trained to shoot first and solve problems afterwards.

    The police claim is still bizarre a dead man and 6 bullets in him with no GSR on the body. While the coroner has said he hasn’t’ been allowed to check the clothing for GSR we have to ask why no GSR and especially no GSR on the dead mans hands if he were reaching for the officers hands when he was shot.
    The coroner has also said that the shot with out the GSR were from a distance you know where the dead guy wasn’t tussling with the officer

  • OtterMatt

    You’re very good at using rhetoric and hatespeech as argument, but why? Given that Tuesday night the police calmly and quickly dispersed violence with minimal use of force, how are they doing too much? Why aren’t people who actually LIVE there complaining about the police protecting the streets? Maybe if everyone would just go back to their homes and let the people who actually knew the victim do their protesting without people throwing rocks, firebombs, and torching people’s businesses, then this story could actually start advancing without people like you calling “foul” over stuff that hasn’t even happened yet.

  • Vega

    The footage explains the circumstances that led an officer to shoot an unarmed man. When an unarmed man who is 6’4 290 pounds fumbles with you for your gun, tries to kill you with it, and is then charging at you from 6 feet away, what else do you do? What I just described above is what the police claim happened, and what the coroner report and a few witnesses appear to support. I don’t know if that really happened, but the the fact that Brown had attacked a clerk and robbed a store within the prior hour makes it a lot more believable. As for the GSR and distance, the police claim Brown was about 6 feet away and charging when he was shot. A 6’4 man can cover 6 feet in less than a second.

  • OtterMatt

    You have got to honestly be one of the worst people I’ve ever seen on here, and that’s saying a lot. :

  • Dov

    Wow dude um people local are complaining and are trying to protest.
    There isn’t an outside force of people protesting theses are people who live there