Photographer Rich Lam had no idea when he headed out shoot to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final that he would end up fleeing riot police later that night, much less taking an iconic shot that would put him at the centre of an international media frenzy.
The stunning photo of a kissing couple he is now famous for has won numerous awards, and was recently listed by BuzzFeed as one of the 40 most powerful photographs ever taken.
He is currently on assignment in England working the Olympics, but Metro caught up with him over the phone Thursday to get his take on the anniversary of Vancouver’s most notorious night in recent memory.
M: How did the riot change your life?
RL: A lot more people know who I am now, and it’s become more of a conversation piece more than anything. Other than that it hasn’t really changed much. The industry that we’re in right now, to put it mildly, is in a transition phase, so things aren’t what they used to be anymore, so Getty has been really good to me and has kept working with me, and you know, that’s all I can ever ask for.
M: Your photo is being used for an ad campaign by an Italian clothing store. How do you feel about the image being used commercially?
RL: They weren’t the first ones. There’s been people constantly requesting to use the photo for CD covers, record album covers, posters for this and that event, and I know it’s been used to publicize another event in Germany … At one point it’s flattering that someone likes the photo enough that they want to use it to promote their product, but on the other hand, it’s tough to say. It was an editorial image but obviously someone did find the value to it and liked it enough to use it to promote their product.
M: Does that bother you?
RL: The image doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to Getty and if they’re able to market it, great for them. Would I like to see a windfall? Of course, but that’s not how this thing works. I was working for Getty, so the image belongs to Getty. We all say ‘yeah, we should get kickbacks and stuff,’ but, you know, that’s not how it works, and I fully understand that. They’ve taken care of me from the get-go, and compensated me for my services. It’s their image. I was working for them. I created it for them. It just so happened that I got a really great image for my client that day.
M: Do you think it has been taken out of context?
RL: People say it’s a really romantic image, and it can be taken two ways. If you knew nothing about it and you just thought, ‘Oh, they’re kissing amongst the riot,’ there’s that way. And if you see the backstory, you know, I thought it was very touching that there’s a guy’s girlfriend who got knocked over by the police, was frantic, was in a fit of panic, and there he is trying to settle her down with a kiss and letting her know everything’s going to be all right. So in that sense, you can take it as a romantic gesture that way as well.
M: Do you think Vancouver has learned anything from the riot?
RL: We sometimes look at these events, like the Olympics, and we kind of fooled ourselves into thinking that everyone knows how to behave in a large crowd and can celebrate responsibly. I never felt that way. I always thought there was an element of stupidity in a large crowd and you can never underestimate that element. It just seemed like everyone was caught off guard on this, and if you really looked at it, you know I was down there on Game 6, and I just sensed that there was going to be trouble, just the way the atmosphere was, and nothing was done, in my mind, to curtail that, and of course everything just kind of blew up. We learned that in the future you just can’t do something like this without planning and taking into consideration that stupid factor.