When Photos are Too Graphic

Abir Abdullah of the European Pressphoto Agency captured a photo of two rescuers carrying bodies of children after a ferry overturned 30 miles south of Dhaka, Bangladesh. At least 24 deaths have been reported, with more to be counted. The ferry was holding approximately 200 passengers when it collided with a cargo boat and sank.

There is a controversy behind capturing images of victimized or dead individuals, especially children. A decision must be made between being sensitive towards an audience and conveying the emotion of an event. One side may find the photo offensive because children are involved and the visual is being seen from a Bangladeshi parent’s perspective. On the other hand, people from around the world can gain a sense of the severity and tragedy of the collision.  Photojournalists face the tough task of shooting what’s important or leaving out certain details.

This image does not contain the faces or names of the people involved, although one face is seen from a distance. The photojournalist shot the photo so the rescuer in the foreground is unidentifiable, and another rescuer in the background is out of focus. While the images of the bodies are a frightening seen, the faces are not shown. There is no hint of blood or damage suffered. One observation to make is that it’s unsure if the children are dead or not. The caption simply says “bodies” rather than indicating they are dead. It would be a controversy if the caption just assumed that the children were dead without identifying their names or background. It was appropriate to run this visual not only because it showed the reality of the situation, but it’s not deemed as too offensive or graphic.

This entry was published on March 29, 2012 at 12:01 am. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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