21.7.06

What is it good for?

I am dreading another picture of a war-torn land; the one picture that will make me stop and stare, transfixed, letting it darken something inside me. I know it sounds melodramatic but that is exactly what happens. There are countless of “good” pictures of war and famine; pictures that effectively portray the horror and pain. The most famous, of course, is the picture of a young, naked Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack on her village. That picture has haunted millions over the years and rightly so. When I first saw it, I have to say, it wasn’t the girl in the picture that affected me as much as the boy on the left. His face is twisted in such terror and agony, it tore at me. The only way I got rid of the horror I felt was to find out about the subjects in the photograph and deconstruct and demystify it. In that way, it lost some of its power which is both a good and bad thing (http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0008/ng_intro.htm).

The napalm picture was the one picture that horrified me most but usually, it is the more poignant pictures that affect me. Below are two pictures that have done that in the past.

The cover of a copy of the Economist I bought a few years back. It is a simple but touching picture that I chose to keep.

A detained Iraqi man comforts his 4-year-old-son at a holding center for prisoners of war near An Najaf, Iraq. The picture was taken on 31 March 2003.
Photographer: Jean-Marc Bouju of The Associated Press. 

These pictures are beautiful but saddening and kind of heartbreaking all at the same time. With George W. Bush decrying Kofi Annan’s plan of action with regards to the Israel-Lebanon conflict (“I don't like his ceasefire plan. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything sorts out.”) and his power-hungry and jingoistic attitude, we can expect a multitude of pictures coming out of Lebanon showing blood and body parts and missing limbs. But, somehow, it’s these pictures of children with sadness in their eyes that make me feel worse.

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