I'm bothered about this post. The key image that made me skeptical is this one:
It bothers me because not only because it elicited an emotional reaction (she is lying on the pavement next to the road that I used to go down every day on my commute to and from work), but because it got me thinking about something one of my photojournalist colleagues pointed out: that our investment in drawing the ethical boundary around protecting a victim's identity and dignity grows in direct proportion to how close the 'situation' is to our own. In other words, if this woman were Syrian and not - as I am - in London, then I wouldn't be nearly as bothered by this photograph and perhaps I wouldn't be censoring it at all (see: death of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy washed up on the beach in 2015.)
Of course to this there is the counter-argument (as some of the commenters have made) that journalism must show the world 'the truth', and while I don't often find it productive to comment on intent (since the effect of the photograph in the world is, fundamentally, the tangible outcome), there is an implied belief that by showing the 'the truth', we can prompt action, something can be done.
But again, let's turn to Alan Kurdi:
Okay, so if not genuine change, then at least awareness? But where exactly is that fickle line between awareness of something and using the appeal of the extreme (a woman bleeding on the ground looking directly into the camera) to draw viewership? When did 'engagement' mean comments and likes on Facebook rather than actual physical engagement? Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all advocating the muzzeling of photojournalists. I understand more than most that the photojournalist's job is very much that: a job. And that years of training and experience teach you that your job is to do the best job you can. That they were on the scene so quickly is a testament to the organisation and its photographers. They live up to their brand, and commitment is to be commended in this age of fickleness and ephemerality.
But I'm worried, mostly. Because this is the output, the 'effect' of the photograph as relayed in the Facebook comments:
And I'm not sure at all what this is doing. For anyone. I'm not sure where the discussion is or the increase in awareness. All I see is angry shouting from both sides.
So to this whole affair, I can only add my condolences to the legions of well-wishers all over London today. And say that of all the pictures I've seen, this is the one that I want to remember: