Interview with Rick Cinclair, photojournalist

Published 6 months ago -


Photojournalism is no easy task. This is especially true for Rick Cinclair, who covered a standoff between protestors and police during 2020’s social unrest despite the threat of Roman candles and other incendiaries. 

Cinclair, the chief photographer for the Telegram & Gazette, described his experience taking photos during the chaotic aftermath of a Worcester rally that summer. “That was the only night of the whole summer of unrest where I felt like I was in a little bit of danger,” he said during a Zoom interview. Situated in a doorway on Main Street, Cinclair was equipped with safety glasses and a helmet as he snapped pictures of police arresting a protester. 

“I’m constantly taking my camera away and looking around — you’re keeping your head on a swivel ‘cause you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he explained. “Out of the right side, I saw a flare come right at them, and I was able to follow it right into the cops. The whole series of about a dozen frames shows the explosion of the firework lodged in the front of the police car.”

Although Cinclair wasn’t overly concerned with being injured, a cop came to him immediately after and told him to evacuate due to the threat of a protester with Molotov cocktails on a roof. “It’s a dangerous place to be,” he said, describing the situation of civil unrest. “Neither side really sees you as being with them.”

Despite the brief concern for his safety, Cinclair was proud he was able to cover the Black Lives Matter protests in Worcester. He compared the events to the changes made in the 1960s by the civil rights movement. “When you look back on those old photos you really feel like the world changed. So I felt there was a heavier burden than normal to portray (the movement) accurately,” he said. “It really felt that these were photographs that would stand the test of time and become a part of history.”

The dangers in photojournalism are something he acknowledges, though he eventually became accustomed to it as part of the job. “The first time I was at car crashes, and fires, and things like that, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. But you do it a little while, and you feel like you’ve seen it all.”

Alongside an understanding of the risks present, according to Cinclair a photojournalist needs to have a strong code of ethics. He described one of his photos taken at Lake Quinsigamond, where a boy who had drowned was recovered by divers. At the scene he stood back with a long lens to give the rescuers space, and instead focused on the boy’s mother and the cop who held her hand.

“To me, that told a story without being graphic and overly intrusive,” he said. “The line I draw is, I never want to make it worse for the people that are probably experiencing the worst day of their life.”

For Cinclair, photojournalism is a demanding but rewarding career, and requires passion for the craft. “It’s not something I would steer anybody into.”

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