About three weeks ago, I posted a lengthy rant about a piece by Johnathan Elderfield in the Chicago Tribune titled THE EMOTIONAL PRICE OF BEING A PROFESSIONAL WITNESS In it Elderfield recounted how hard it is to be photo editor and how deeply the pictures he saw every day weighed on him.
Child with dead dad
(You can read my original post here)
In my post, I explained that I feel quite strongly that the fourth estate has been asleep at the switch on the war, and that the most egregious omissions are in the photo-journalism department. I attacked Mr. Elderfield for his whiny tone, and chastised him, writing:
"Why are you, Jonathan Elderfield, the only one to have seen these pictures? Why is it that every time I open the paper I see antiseptic crap rather than the hard hitting news photos it turns out you've been sitting on all these months? The photos that accompanied the news piece were indeed graphic--far more graphic than anything I've ever seen in the tribune or elsewhere. They have the power to bring the horror of war home, and yet all they do is eat at you rather than the conscience of the nation. They ruin your lunch rather than affect public opinion. This seems to be a total abdication of your responsibility as a journalist and an editor, and rather than feel sorry for your pain, all I can muster is fury at your complicity in a whitewash that continues to cost innocent lives on a daily basis."
Well, thanks to the miracle of Blogging and Google, I got a message tonight from Mr. Elderfield himself. As it turns out, Elderfield and the Tribune did in fact run almost all of the photos he mentioned. Which leads me to say: I'm sorry. I got my facts wrong.
After a very brief correspondence he sent me the names of the photographers and their agencies as well as the dates the pieces ran. While I couldn't find them on the Trib site, I did find them elsewhere, and I have no doubt at all that they did indeed run in the Chicago Tribune just as Mr. Elderfield says.
Here's the one of the kid spattered with her parent's blood.
What I find interesting though, is that having now tracked down what I think are the pictures, I'm still disturbed. It seems to me that most of them sounded more graphic and horrifying than they actually looked. For example, here's an account that accompanied the picture above (Chris Hondros is the photographer who took the photo)
"One of the starkest incidents in recent weeks occurred on the evening of Jan. 18 in the town of Tal Afar, a trouble spot west of the city of Mosul, where a platoon from the 25th Infantry Division was on a foot patrol. Chris Hondros, a photographer for Getty Images, an American photo agency, said that soldiers of the Apache company were walking in near darkness toward an intersection along a deserted commercial street when they saw the headlights of a sedan turning into the street about 100 yards ahead. An officer ordered the troops over their headsets to halt the vehicle, and all raised weapons. One soldier fired a three-shot burst into the air, but the car kept coming, Mr. Hondros said, and then half a dozen troops fired at least 50 rounds, until the car was peppered with bullets and rolled gently to a stop against a curb.
"I could hear sobbing and crying coming from t he car, children's voices," Mr. Hondros said. Next he said, one of the rear doors opened, and six children, four girls and two boys, one only 8 years old, tumbled into the street. They were splattered with blood. Mr. Hondros, whose photographs of the incident were published around the world, said that the parents of four of the children lay dead in the front seat. Their bodies were riddled with bullets, and the man's skull had smashed."
It seems to me that the writing here is more powerful than the images, and that just seems wrong. I guess that while I clearly owe Mr. Elderfield an apology, (and I offer it unreservedly) I am still disturbed by the same point that tuned me up initially. Where are the graphic terrifying photos?
Photo's like this:
I guess I still wonder why, If we can get pictures of Brad Pitt frolicking on some remote island beach we can't get disturbing pictures of the horrors of war, or even just shots of flag draped coffins? Is it possible that it's just because they say so? I mean, we know that there are more horrible photos in circulation that document what happened at Abu Ghraib--(in a chat I heard Sy Hersh, mentioned something about a feather...) But they've never been published.
What I tried to convey then, (though I was wrong about what the Trib published) was that I thought Elderfield's piece, (while interesting and confessional) didn't seem to address the larger and, I think more pressing question. And that's too bad--particularly because Elderfield would have been such a good person to have done so.
At least that part I stand by.