Photographer Peter Hapak traveled to seven countries to capture portraits of dozens of protesters for TIME’s Person of the Year 2011 issue. Peter photographed protesters representing Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy the Hood, Los Indignados of Spain, protesters in Greece, revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, activists from Syria fleeing persecution, a crusader fighting corruption in India, Tea Party activists from New York, a renowned poet turned protester from Mexico and a protester from Wisconsin who carries a shovel, topped by a flag.
We set up makeshift studios in hotel rooms, apartments and people’s homes, inside a temple in rural India and 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 studio in a hotel room overlooking Tahrir Square — the same room where Yuri Kozyrev made a now iconic photograph of the crowd.
Each subject was photographed in front of a white or black background — eliminating their environments but elevating their commonality to that of “Protester,” a fitting setup for a group of people united by a common desire for change.
“They were all unhappy. They wanted change, and they wanted a better life,” Hapak said. “Everybody is out there to unite their power for one common cause, one common expression: to get a better life.”