Atrocity Images [Syria]

TIME and the TIMES

Time Inc Light Box

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.



Crisis in Syria 

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.

Syria photos – reblogging Bag News

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.

Will this Random, Dated Snuff Video Prevent the Attack on Syria? — BagNews.

fragment from NY TIMES front page 9.5.13

…[the photo] was from a post at, originally posted at, 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)

War Images As Evidence in War Trials

Powerful story and images – posting so I remember it.

Ron Haviv’s Bosnian War Images As Evidence in War Trials –

“The photographs really didn’t have any of the effect that I had hoped they would,” said Mr. Haviv, who was put on a death list by Arkan. “I was hoping to prevent the war. And of course, there was no reaction. The war started, 100,000 to 200,000 people were killed on all sides and several million more became refugees – which led to the war in Kosovo.”

While the images did not stop the Bosnian ethnic cleansing, his photos have had another life: as evidence used by investigators and prosecutors


Shocking Photographs

You tube warns us. The New York Times tells us the next photo will be upsetting or of a dead child. Interestingly, they don’t give us the option to skip the image and in other parts of the website the same image appears with no warning. And you are not warned when you look at the paper. Why warn us? And the ones with the warning are not always the most upsetting ones. When does publishing a photo re-inflict the pain?

There has been a lot written about the NY Post publishing the photo of the man about to be hit by the subway train. Slate wrote about it and while they questioned if the Post should have published it, they re-published it quite large with no remark on their decision to do so. Reminds me of the publication and re-publication of the  Abu Ghraib photos.

Below are more links looking at what to photograph, what to publish, life/death, how photographs of atrocity affect both photographer and audience. Most interesting is reading words by the photojournalists themselves in the Syria and Afghanistan pieces in Time magazine. It it is hearing from witnesses.

Syria’s Agony: The Photographs That Moved Them Most.
TIME asked 28 photojournalists to reflect on their  work from the conflict over the last year.  “This collection of testimonies is the third in a series by TIME documenting iconic images of conflict.” The first two “9/11: The Photographs That Moved Them Most” and “Afghanistan: The Photographs That Moved Them Most”. It is hard to call the 9/11 testimonies since it is mostly by curators and editors not witnesses.

The Most Controversial Photos of 2012 – Flavorwire.

Watching Syria’s War –

Watching Syria’s War – Videos and images of the continuing conflict in Syria

The New York Times is tracking the human toll of the conflict in this feature. The primary source is the online video that has allowed a widening war to be documented like no other, and posts try to put the video into context.

the news becoming pointing/linking

** In thinking about these warnings, I realize you are not given an obvious way to skip the image. Most people use the next button and the only way to skip is go to numbers down below to pick the one after next. Also warning never seems to appear in the full screen view.



world is watching

Inspired (again) by Nicholas Kristoff article = this one about Ryan Boyette and his citizen journalism project It hasn’t launched yet but looking around led me to other witness projects.

Satellite Sentinel Project: George Clooney initiated the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) while on an October 2010 trip to Southern Sudan with Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast. SSP combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Maker technology to deter the resumption of war between North and South Sudan. The project provides an early warning system to deter full-scale civil war between Northern and Southern Sudan and to promote greater accountability for mass atrocities by focusing world attention and generating rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns.

Rami al-Sayed’s YouTube channel – videos up to the moment of his death in Syria. Video of a Dr. with his dead body

Syria via Al Jazeera English youtube

One News Crowdsourcing Platform


I’ll be adding more to this.

Marie Colvin – Remi Ochlik

Looking at the coverage of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik’s deaths in Syria.


Marie Colvin: War Reports,  The Sunday Times

American Reporter Marie Colvin’s Final Dispatches From Homs [Lede Blog]

Ghastly Images Flow from Shattered Syrian City [NY Times] Photo of activist in Homs, Syria, pointing to the bodies of the journalists Rémi Ochlik and Marie Colvin printed very small with no ability to enlarge.

Syrian Activist Rami-al-Sayed YouTube Channel

Remi Ochlik website
Remi Ochlik photojournalism
@ Guardian