Yesterday I was sorting through the category “Life in Conflict Zones,” and thought I had duplicates in the pile. On closer look, I realized that there were in fact different images, and I was noticing a new trope: bombed-out buildings with small figures making their way in the foreground. The front pages are 4 months apart and the photographs are taken in Syria. Devastating that it is a new normal – I fear that it does not make us look more closely.
First and last paragraphs of disturbing story about what is happening in Syria and the power and powerlessness of photography.
[from NPR Parallels blog] The image is epic. It shows thousands of desperate people waiting in a gray canyon of rubble framed by shattered buildings to receive food aid in Yarmouk camp, near Damascus. The photo was shared millions of times last month via social media, and on Thursday, the image appears on a big screen in New York’s Times Square in an effort to focus attention on besieged neighborhoods inside Syria and civilians who are literally starving to death.
And that brings us back to the photograph from Yarmouk camp, which sparked a social media campaign, generated international sympathy, made a debut in Times Square, but has done little to open the many other besieged neighborhoods in Syria. [link to full story and audio]
TIME and the TIMES
I was brought to Time’s Light Box by a post on Facebook about this piece: Witness to a Syrian Execution: “I Saw a Scene of Utter Cruelty”. An unnamed (for his safety) photojournalist documented public beheadings in Syria. The first photo is the ‘before’ moment. I have not hit the play button to see the rest. Reading the title and seeing the first image is enough and then reading the article and words by the photographer is more than enough. Why would someone want or need to look at more? Why is there a need to publish all of this?
“Because of the danger in reporting inside Syria, it was not possible to confirm the identity or political affiliation of the victim. Nor are we certain about the motivation of his killers. One eyewitness who lives in the area and was contacted by TIME a week after the beheadings said that the executioners were from ISIS, an Al-Qaeda franchise operating in Syria and Iraq.” Like the NY Times front page of the mass executions by rebels, here again horrific images are published without specific knowledge. The Times finds out its front page image is over a year old and the correction is buried, not front page news. I feel manipulated. I am troubled by this trend by the big NEWS organizations of getting the “shots”, being the first, etc. This has always been the case with photojournalism but the landscape is different now with social media and everything being filmed or photographed and then being circulated without the facts or without verifiable facts.
Looking at the NY Times image again, I see that we cannot identify those being shot (thankfully) but we can clearly see the shooters. Has this image been their death sentence? Because I haven’t looked at the rest of the Time images, I don’t know whether or not, we can see the faces of the executioners.
Barbie Zelizer writes about ‘About to Die’ Images. From an interview in Slate: “We’re squeamish because news pictures of the dead and dying are of real people and real events. If a news image works, it penetrates, lingers, forces our attention to the events involving death that it depicts. If a news image works, it doesn’t disappear when we cast aside the newspaper, dim the TV or turn off the Internet. That may be more intrusion than most people are willing to allow.”
These images from Syria haunt me. But are they really news images? What is the news? The rebels are bad too? Many Syrians are barbaric? That the war is horrific? Many questions, no easy answers.
I also have been following Watching Syria’s War at the Times but interestingly, I had trouble finding this section – no link from the Crisis in Syria section. If that front page photo of the mass execution had been in these sections, the politics would have been much different since it would be in the context of the difficulty of reporting in Syria and not being able to always know what is going on.
insightful piece from Bag News. As the author notes, it stopped me in my tracks. I was disturbed not just by the content but by the apparent political nature of the Times publishing it and its questionable origin.
…[the photo] was from a post at GlobalResearch.com, originally posted at SyrianNews.cc, titled “Will this Photo prevent the Attack on Syria?” If sympathetic to the Syrian government, the post posits the question whether (this) one image could actually prevent the United States from going to war. Citing how of the iconic Eddie Adam photo of a suspected member of the Vietcong being shot in the head crystallized domestic anti-war sentiment, the author applies the same question to the image splashed across five columns of The New York Times… more
And the NY Times correction: An article on Thursday about the brutal and ruthless tactics adopted by some rebel groups in Syria misstated the date of a video that showed a band of rebels executing seven captured Syrian soldiers. The video, which was smuggled out of Syria by a former rebel, was made in the spring of 2012, not April 2013. (link)
MARCH 18, 2013 By Heather Murphy, NY Times
Amateur video has been pivotal to the way the conflict in Syria is understood.
NY Times video that raises good questions about what do without media.
This fantastic photo attached to the story Immigration Shifts Could Provide Opening for Compromise was on the lead image on the nytimes.com site this morning when I first visited- switched to the global site and found it there. Then I switched to the chinese edition and there was this horrifying photo from Syria which was the 3rd photo on the lens blog yesterday. No link to the story on the lens blog but I did find the story after hitting the ‘world’ tab. Reading the paper online always feel a bit random to me.
After going back to the US edition, the photo of Obama on the laptop is gone and has been replaced by changing photos from the congressional hearings on gun violence.And here is the ‘paper’ front page photo which is the same as the first photo on yesterday’s lens blog.