A year of unrest

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Reg Lancaster's photographs of the Paris Riots and Prague Spring

1968 was a year of political unrest and social change, there were worldwide protests for civil liberties and demonstrations against the Vietnam War. It was in the context of this global struggle for political democracy and personal freedom that the Paris Riots and Prague Spring took place. 

Both events were covered by Fleet Street photographer Reg Lancaster, a staff photographer for the Daily Express and based in Paris at the time. 

In France it was the student population who were challenging the status quo and railing against the establishment, later to be joined by disenchanted workers. In May a series of student strikes broke out at a number of universities in Paris and the escalating conflict ended up on the streets. 

Reg's photographs document the riots in progress and the tension between rebellious protesters and riot police is palpable. 

Reg worked for the Daily Express for forty four years, in its heyday the Express had the largest staffed press photographer's team covering foreign assignments around the world. Reg was a versatile photographer taking images of everything from sport to celebrity but all with the same keen eye for detail.

Expressive faces of riot police preparing to fire tear gas on the crowds.
Riot debris and missiles litter the road.

Left, May 14th. A volatile situation as a watchful crowd facing the police appear ready for confrontation. 

A photographer, clutching his camera is on the move. On the street a discarded shoe is left in haste. In the bottom right hand corner of the image a protester runs towards us clutching what looks like a brick. The air is hazy with tear gas.

Protesters join arms in a display of solidarity. 
Police line up to confront students in the 5th Arrondissement.
Medics and police carry a wounded man.

Left, the riot turns violent and some protesters are on the ground. Press photographers caught up in the action take refuge in a doorway whilst another photographs the police as they surge forward with their batons raised. 

The bloodied face of a casualty who is helped by another student whilst the group behind them clasp their hands on their heads.

Police shelter behind their riot shields in preparation for the next clash.
Students join arms in a stand off with the police, a number of protesters can be seen wearing helmets as a means of protection.
A policeman and photographer take cover, both armed for their respective roles.
Images taken from behind the police line provide an interesting perspective.
A lone policeman throws a tear gas canister in an attempt to disperse the crowds.
Riot police charge forward as they act to clear the streets of protesters.
Parisians resume the business of everyday life, clambering over rubble left in the streets after the student riots.

In August of the same year Reg was in Czechoslovakia to photograph the crisis in Prague. 

The Prague Spring is the term used to describe the brief period when popular Communist Party leader Alexander Dubcek attempted to introduce a programme of reform and loosening of censorship. 

Despite efforts to reassure the Soviet leadership that Czechoslovakia had no intention of leaving the Warsaw Pact the move towards a more liberal approach to government was viewed by the Soviet Union as a threat and armed intervention was decreed necessary. 

Left, 27th August. Students in Wenceslas Square, Prague, flying a banner emblazoned with the name of Czechoslovakian general secretary Alexander Dubcek.

Right, an emotive image as tearful crowds holding flowers congregate in Prague to confront the Russian invaders.

T 55 Russian tanks on the streets of Prague as the Soviets seize power in Czechoslovakia.
Students inspecting a tank.
Two children play on a parked tank.
Relaxed troops lounge on their jeeps and tanks but their manner is watchful.
Soldiers join protesters. The close observation of the soldier's expression provides a level of visual intimacy which is echoed in others in this set. 
Students burn Russian newspapers in an act of peaceful defiance. 
The people of Prague go about their business as a tank sits ominously in the background.
A group listen intently to the radio hoping to hear the latest news on the invasion. 
Angry Czech youth attacking a Soviet Tank.
Students distribute underground literature in Wenceslas Square in protest against the Soviet occupation of their country
At the funeral of one of the victims of the fighting. A grieving woman is central to this somber dark image, the pale comforting hand on her shoulder an added degree of pathos. 
Remains of the barricades.
Crowds in Wenceslas Square.
Crowds whistle in protest to the Soviet occupation. 
Soviet troops march through the centre of Prague. 
A sea of hands, protesting against the invasion.
Credits: Story

Curator - Archive Research Manager — Caroline Theakstone
Photographer - Reg Lancaster  Express Photos —

Credits: All media
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