Many Photos are Worth More than a Thousand words

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This past week a few of us who did not participate in the Peace March went to the main street in order to pay tribute to those who had lost their lives at Srebrenica and had been identified to be buried at this year’s memorial service. It was a very difficult experience filled with many emotions.

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The truck carrying the identified remains passes through and the community comes out to place flowers on the truck and to pray for those who lost their lives and their family members. Among the crowd were many who had lost loved ones during the war. After placing flowers on the truck, another student and I step back out of the way of the others paying tribute. One man standing beside me had tears rolling down his cheek and reached up to brush them aside. It made my heart ache for him and for the others as I looked around at the community mourning their losses together.

Then, a women, who had lost her husband and son in Srebrenica, came pushing her way through the crowd from the truck toward us and sat on the curb next to us, weeping for her lost loved ones. Again my heart ached for her and others around us.
Not far behind her, came a photographer who was eager to get the perfect picture of this women in pain as he shoved his camera through the crowd and inches away from her face. This was the other part of the scene.

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Amongst the community grieving were dozens of photographers swarming around them and shoving cameras in their faces while they were praying, wailing, or just standing on the sidewalk. A little girl who was about 4 years old holding a flower while standing next to her brother also had hoards of photographers surround her to take her picture from every possible angle. This made me sort of angry. There were no questions for their approval first, no apologies, and no sympathy.

Over the past week amongst the students we have discussed our thoughts on this event. We have discussed our thoughts and emotions about being able to witness the community coming together in such a time of mourning. We have also discussed the actions of the photographers.

Do photographers just have to put aside their emotions for these pictures? But then, how different is it that we even took pictures of the crowd forming and the truck as it drove through? How ethical is it to invade a person’s space while they are grieving? This was a public, community event so does that make it okay? Are the pictures of those in mourning sometimes the ones that bring the most attention to those of the outside world and therefore necessary? These are just a few of the questions that came up in our discussions. Someone pointed out that many times, even in textbooks, pictures of people in pain are portrayed in order for us to learn. To learn about history, about psychology, about countless other topics, even social work. I am still questioning my feelings towards these invasive photographers.

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One thought on “Many Photos are Worth More than a Thousand words

  1. I am a Journalist by trade, and I was in Srebrenica back in 2006, reporting for a community newspaper in Australia. It was very difficult for me to take pictures of people, as I didn’t want to invade their privacy. On the other hand, it was important to capture those moments. I found a middle ground which worked for me…I took a few shots from a far enough distance to get a clear picture but not invade anyones privacy. In Journalism school you take classes of media ethics where such matters are discussed. It’s never easy and very often there is professional selfishness.

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