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NachtriebEdit copy

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Nachtrieb JUNE 4
Nachtrieb JUNE 4

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Great Hall of the People
Great Hall of the People

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NachtriebEdit copy

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© Copyright Edward Nachtrieb
As a Chief Photographer for Reuters in China in 1989 I photographed the series of events the culminated in the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy advocates on Tiananmen Square in June. I started posting these images almost 10 years ago after noticing that the memory of those events was being "watered down." These are here to counter a "fake history" that doesn't jibe with the events as I experienced them. 
Ed Nachtrieb
APRIL 16 1989

The beginning. The first wreaths appear on the square a day after the announcement of Hu Yaobang’s death.

APRIL 21 1989
hu yaobang tiananmen

A new banner appears near the mourning posters - “Long Live Democracy and Freedom”

APRIL 22 Great Hall of the People

Hu Yaobang’s memorial service at the Great Hall of the People provides an excuse for students to rally on the steps.

APRIL 24 University

After the memorial, the students had to decide whether to press their demands without the cover of mourning for a former party leader,

Party HQ

The first real “march” to the square. These students were singing “The Internationale” to brace up for their charge into police lines

nachtrieb Beijing 1989

Student protest leaders bike to the Great Hall of the People to deliver their demands for dialogue.

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The last picture of Zhao Ziyang at an official function before his house arrest.

Gorbachev Deng

MAY 17 - Over a half a million people fill Tiananmen Square on Wednesday to demand government reform in the biggest popular uprising since the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

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Long Live Students

Protesters on Tiananmen
Soldiers stopped by citizens
Stopped by citizens
Edward nachtrieb

Revolution in our time

Mao Defaced
Communist HQ
Communist HQ
scared protester
Goddess of Democracy
JUNE3 1989
Beijing number one hospital
Mourning the dead
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June 6 Tiananmen tank
Long Live The People.jpg

Thirty years ago in Beijing, idealistic students risked everything, including their lives, to make a passionate stand for human freedom in the face of an overbearing state. As they cried out “Long Live the People,” waves of them outstretched their arms and thrust out two fingers to signal “victory.” They were fearless. 

I was the Chief Photographer for Reuters News Pictures in China at the time and lived in Beijing. My favorite images of the 1989 protests reflect the participants’ idealism in the face of overwhelming odds and are now elements in these works by Shepard Fairey. 


Singing patriotic songs, students locked arms and charged into a series of police phalanxes blocking their entrance to Tiananmen Square (image at the bottom, middle). Once they occupied the square, parades of ordinary citizens took to the streets to wave victory signs (top image) while Communist Party bosses met behind the walled gates of their Zhongnanhai headquarters to plot a response (bottom right). 

After the People’s Liberation Army was sent in to suppress what is now called the “pro-democracy movement” on June 4, 1989, there was a liberalization of economic rules and policies. China then experienced a remarkable economic transformation. The idea: if people could get rich, they wouldn’t care so much about their freedoms. I think that’s a miscalculation. In Hong Kong today, ideas championed in 1989 have reappeared in a “Revolution of Our Time” in spite of the campaign to erase such “counter-revolutionary” thoughts from history. 


My images used in these prints are from energetic and optimistic moments of the pro-democracy movement. Victory was in the air. Progress seemed inevitable to those with arms outstretched and smiles beaming from their faces. Shepard’s work reflects their hopes and aspirations. The same ones that fortified those protesters in 1989 are now fuel for the passionate idealists on the streets today. 

                                                                                                              -Edward Nachtrieb, Photographer