Pho­tog­ra­phers di­vided over graphic war snaps

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

How far to go in terms of gore and shock value when cov­er­ing con­flict? Cap­tur­ing vi­o­lence on cam­era was hotly de­bated on the fringes of Bayeux, a ma­jor French pho­tog­ra­phy fes­ti­val. Sea­soned pho­tog­ra­phers dis­cussed where to draw the line at an event Fri­day on the fringes of the Bayeux Cal­va­dos fes­ti­val, whose main prizes were set to be awarded later yes­ter­day. “How do you want peo­ple to ac­cept refugees in Europe if you don’t show them the vi­o­lence from which the mi­grants are flee­ing?” said In­dian pho­tog­ra­pher Sami Siva who has cov­ered un­rest and post-con­flict is­sues in Tur­key, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and In­dia.

But this does not con­vince Yunes Mo­hammed, a 44-year-old Iraqi Kur­dish pho­tog­ra­pher, who says this is like play­ing into the hands of mil­i­tants. “I’ve seen chil­dren play­ing at de­cap­i­ta­tion. This raises ques­tions. And those who use vi­o­lence want to show their power and wait for peo­ple like me to help them have a psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact on oth­ers,” he said.

In 2014, the Bayeux fes­ti­val ig­nored the work of Turk­ish pho­tog­ra­pher Emin Oz­men, whose work show­ing de­cap­i­ta­tions by Is­lamic State fight­ers in Syria sparked great con­tro­versy. That de­ci­sion is still be­ing de­bated. Ac­cord­ing to French pho­tog­ra­pher Pa­trick Chau­vel, Oz­men, who has won two World Press Photo awards, was right.

“You can’t say ‘Daesh de­cap­i­tates’ and then not show it,” Chau­vel said, us­ing the Ara­bic name for the Is­lamic State group. This year too the theme is in the lime­light with an ex­hi­bi­tion de­voted to gang wars in Aca­pulco, “the most dan­ger­ous city in Mex­ico”, ac­cord­ing to its cu­ra­tor, Bel­gian re­porter Lau­rent van Der Stockt. “My ethics for­bid me from show­ing bat­tered bod­ies of women and chil­dren,” said Mex­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher Ber­nandino Her­nan­dez. “I con­cen­trate on the de­tails” like the tied up legs of a body found on the side­walk, he said.

But Chau­vel says one should go all the way. “One must pho­to­graph ev­ery­thing for col­lec­tive mem­ory, for the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, but should not pub­lish ev­ery­thing,” he said. “Some peo­ple go too far in their quest for fame,” the 67-year-old added. Vir­ginie Nguyen Hoang said if pho­tographs were un­duly grue­some they would fail to in­form as peo­ple would stop look­ing at them. “In Au­gust 2013, I cov­ered a massacre in Cairo. I saw many peo­ple dy­ing in front of me, bleed­ing to death. But I pho­tographed a dead youth with just a hole in his throat. “That photo did not shock but it left a mark,” she said. “It touched a chord with the Egyp­tian au­thor­i­ties .... ” — AFP

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