Photographer Adrees Latif tells how he took the pictures which won him a Pulitzer Prize.

Photographer Adrees Latif tells how he took the pictures which won him a Pulitzer Prize.

“Tipped off by protests against soaring fuel prices, I landed in Yangon on 23 September, 2007, with some old clothes, a Canon 5D camera, two fixed lenses and a laptop.

For the next four days, I went to Shwedagon Pagoda, two-three kilometres from the centre of town and waited for the monks who had been gathering there daily at noon.

Since I was at the same pagoda every day, dozens of people, including monks, asked me who I was and what I was doing. As the ruling military regime is notoriously secretive, my replies were guarded.

Barefoot in maroon robes, and ringed by civilians, the monks chanted and prayed before starting their two-kilometre march to the Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon. Each day their numbers grew, from hundreds to thousands.

By 27 September, the city had become packed with troops. Soldiers and government agents stood at street corners.

Finding the Shwedagon Pagoda sealed off, I went to the middle of town to find groups of young people taunting soldiers at Sule.

Within minutes, the crowd swelled from hundreds to a few thousand. The soldiers threw barbed wire coils across the roads.

Knowing that hundreds of people were gunned down in similar circumstances in a 1988 uprising, I climbed an old crosswalk directly overhead, to get to one of the few spots offering a clear view.

Below me, protesters were singing and waving flags; to the side, young men were thrusting their pelvises at the soldiers.

At about 1.30pm local time, two dark green, open-top army trucks approached, followed by dozens more packed with riot police. They were hit by a barrage of water bottles, fruit and abuse from the crowd.

I had already locked on my 135mm lens and set my camera shutter speed to 1000, aperture to F/7.1 and ISO at 800. With the camera on manual, I wanted to stop any movement while offering as much depth-of-field as possible.

Two minutes later, the shooting started. My eye caught a person flying backwards through the air. Instinctively, I started photographing, capturing four frames of the man on his back.

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  • only question, is, what was the second lens he brought with him…