Theory & Practice

Behind the Image: A Moment of Quiet in the Madding Crowd

Nikos Economopoulos captures a moment of stillness at a political rally in Turkey

Nikos Economopoulos

Nikos Economopoulos Political meeting, Yozgat. Turkey. 1990. © Nikos Economopoulos | Magnum Photos

In 1990, Nikos Economopoulos attended a political rally in Yozgat, a city in central Turkey, organized by supporters of the late statesman, İsmet İnönü, the second president of Turkey. Economopoulos could sense that violence was about to erupt among the all-male crowd, but before the photographer’s eyes, a butterfly touched down on the shoulder of a man in front of him. He immortalized this fleeting moment of serenity in an image that became iconic. Here, the photographer tells the story behind how the image was created.

What is happening in this photograph?

A political rally, in spring.

Where was this image made?

During a pre-election rally in support of İsmet İnönü’s former party, in Yozgat, Turkey.

What was happening outside the frame?

There was tension, a sense of urgency and violence about to erupt.

How was this image made?

In the middle of this predominantly male crowd and the harsh loudspeaker voices, this butterfly landed gently on the back of an unsuspecting man. I approached quietly, waiting for something to happen, and tip-toed behind him so as not to scare it away. He sensed my presence and turned. This image is about the curious relationship between the hardened, suspicious features of the man and the tender touch of the butterfly.

If you hadn’t taken this shot, what would you have been doing instead at that precise moment?

I was there to take that shot.

Tell us a secret about this image?

To stand amidst the madding crowd and focus on the sole quiet butterfly.

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