Point of view: To document dissent, keep a cool head

Nearly as many photographers as protesters gathered for the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. My dilemma as a photojournalist is to keep perspective on the overall demonstration while documenting sporadic clashes. But I sometimes wonder whether our presence instigates conflict. If the photographers didn't show up, would protesters still clash with police? It seems likely in today's intense climate of division, distrust, and dissent. It is easier to photograph demonstrations and arrests than to get into the field and document the roots of problems. Alas, conflict makes for compelling pictures. If there are 100,000 law-abiding protesters peacefully marching and 500 anarchists itching for a fight, I shoot as much as I can of everything. At the end of the day, I look back at the photos and make my decisions based on content and importance in relation to the day's events. In Boston, the demonstrations were small; the police and protesters squared off only briefly. Later this month, I head to New York City to cover the Republican National Convention, where more conflicts are predicted. I'll probably be in the middle of it and will work to keep it in perspective.

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