Thirty years on from the violent crushing of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, the man’s identity remains unknown; it is by no means certain he is still alive. But the photograph that captured his solitary moment of dissent in June 1989 remains one of the most memorable images of the last century, known universally as Tank Man.
Jeff Widener was not the only photographer to capture the scene, but it is his image – listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential of all time – that has become the most famous. “Every Tank Man photo has a different flavour. I think I was lucky I was using such a fine-grained film. It allowed it to be blown up larger. I think mine also has a more ‘Gandhi’ feel. He looks more vulnerable: a common man asking a question, like: why are you doing this? My feeling is that this guy had no concern for his safety. He was fed up and just didn’t care. He just wanted answers.”