Tiananmen Square ‘Tank Man’ photographer Charlie Cole dies at 64

The iconic photograph of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing.

Charlie Cole, one of the photographers who captured the iconic image of protest against China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown a lone man blocking the path of a column of tanks has died in Indonesia, AFP reported US officials as saying.

The authorities confirmed the death of 64-year-old Cole in Bali, where he had been residing for long. "We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss," a state department official told AFP.

On 5 June 1989, Cole was one of the four photographers who captured the image of a man clad in a white shirt, carrying shopping bags in both his hands, striding out into the road, a day after hundreds possibly thousands of people died. The man, whose identity remains unknown till today, had stopped in front of a line of tanks and armoured vehicles. With gunshots crackling in the air, he later climbed onto one of the vehicles to interact with a tank crew. He was eventually pulled away from the scene by two men. What happened to him after that remains unknown.

He took this picture for Newsweek from the balcony of a hotel, framing it in a way that the man was could be spotted only in the bottom left corner. The photo, famously known as ‘Tank Man’, went on to become a defining image of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing and fetched him World Press Photo award in 1990.

Cole had later described that he felt it was his responsibility to record the scene as he had apprehended that the man would be killed.

‘Tank Man’, although considered to be one of the defining images of the 20th century, till today remains largely unrecognised in China due to censorship and the wider crackdown.

(With inputs from AFP and BBC)