We set up makeshift studios in hotel rooms, inside apartments and peoples homes, inside a temple in rural India, an anarchist headquarters in Athens, even in the courtyard of the home of Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. Tear gas wafted into our makeshift studio inside a hotel room overlooking Tahrir Square—the same room Yuri Kozyrev made the now-iconic photograph of the crowd.
Each time we asked subjects to bring with them mementos of protest. Rami Jarrah, a Syrian activist who had fled to Cairo, brought his battered iPhone. He showed me some of the most intense protest footage I’ve ever seen on that broken screen. A Spanish protester named Stephane Grueso brought his iPhone also, referring to it as a “weapon.” Some young Egyptian protesters brought rubber pellets that had been fired at them by security forces. Another brought a spent tear gas canister. Some carried signs, flags, gas masks (some industrial ones, some homemade, like Egyptian graffiti artist El Teneen—his was made from a Pepsi can). A trio of Greek protesters brought Maalox. Mixed with water, sprayed on their eyes to counter the harsh effects of tear gas. Molly Catchpole, the young woman from Washington, D.C. who took on Bank of America – and won – brought her chopped up debit card. Sayda al-Manahe brought a framed photograph of her son, Hilme, a young Tunisian man killed by police during the revolution. El General, the Tunisian revolutionary rapper, brought nothing but his voice – he rapped a capella for us (we have a video). Lina Ben Mhenni, a blogger from Tunisia and Nobel Peace Prize contender, brought her laptop. She was speaking Arabic yet we understood the words “Facebook” and “Twitter.”