WITH rolling news and social media, there’s no escaping the distressing, real-time footage of Russian bombs raining down on the innocents of Ukraine.
But when it comes to a “moment” that conveys the full horror of a seismic event, history tells us that nothing beats the power of a “reportage” photo.
Often, these involve children, the innocents of war. And more often than not, the publication of such a distressing image prompts debate over whether it should be used, for fear of offending the eye of the beholder.
But as news photographer Christoph Bangert said: “How can we refuse to acknowledge a mere representation — a picture — of a horrific event, while other people are forced to live through the horrific event itself?”
He’s right. Yet many news outlets chose not to run the image that, I believe, will endure as a reminder of Putin’s atrocity long after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is over and the TV cameras have packed up and moved on.
I’m talking about the photograph by Evgeniy Maloletka of the unnamed, heavily pregnant woman cradling her abdomen as she is carried out of a bombed maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol.
We now know that both mother and baby died — another argument, perhaps, for never showing the image again.
But look at it we must, because there’s plenty of evidence that such a powerful photograph can sway opinion and, in some cases, change the course of history.
Images such as the naked young girl running down the street after a South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped napalm on its own soldiers and civilians in the 1972 Vietnam War.
She had ripped off her burning clothes and the shot became symbolic of the atrocities of the conflict. Or the 2005 photograph of a screaming five-year-old Iraqi girl at a checkpoint in Iraq, covered in the blood of her parents after they were accidentally killed by US troops.
It provoked horror worldwide and prompted the American military to change how it operated checkpoints.
And who can forget the heartbreaking image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying face down in the sand of a Turkish beach in 2015 after drowning while trying to flee the Syrian conflict in a migrant boat that capsized. His mother Rehana and five-year-old brother Galip lost their lives too.
Dressed like any other toddler, the photograph of Alan humanised the migrant crisis for those who might hitherto have closed their eyes and ears to the plight of those fleeing war-torn countries.
Similarly, the footage of the planes hitting the Twin Towers in 2001 conveys the enormity of the terrorist act, but the “Falling Man” photo of a worker diving headfirst to his doom rather than face the heat of the flames is what humanises it.
So, too, the sight of shocked five-year-old Omran Daqneesh covered in dust and blood in the back of an ambulance during the Syrian conflict, or fireman Chris Fields tenderly cradling the body of toddler Baylee Almon who died in the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City.
We see ourselves in these photos. It could be us, our child, our sister, brother, niece or nephew.
It’s important we feel that way, because it incites a mixture of compassion and anger that then, world over, empowers our governments to do something about it.
Sanitising the images of conflict helps no one — not least because it enables war criminals such as Putin to pretend it’s not happening.
And if families in Russia were allowed to see the image of a pregnant woman mortally injured at the hands of their leader, they might rise up and rid themselves of the brutal tyrant once and for all.
Musk be joking with baby’s name
TECH billionaire Elon Musk and on-off singer girlfriend Grimes (aka Claire Boucher), have had a secret second child together.
Perhaps they kept it to themselves because they thought we’d die laughing when we heard the daughter’s name . . . Exa Dark Siderael Musk, or “Y” for short. Why, indeed.
It follows the name of X AE A-12 – “X” for short – given to their first born, a son who is nearly two.
Isn’t there a law against giving your child daft or, in some cases, downright offensive names?
Apparently, the names Rogue, Martian and Chow Tow (which means smelly head) are illegal in the UK, while Nutella, Prince William, and MJ are banned in France.
In Oz you can’t have Ikea, Spinach and Snort, while the Swiss say a strict “non” to Paris, Chanel and Mercedes, and in America you can’t name your child King, Queen, Majesty, Master or Judge.
All of which, quite frankly, seem infinitely preferable to what the baby Musks are dealing with.
Still, like so many kids given daft names by “wacky” celebrity parents, they’ll probably rebel in their teens and change it to Trevor and Gladys.
DOLLY’S OH, TOO MODEST
DOLLY PARTON has withdrawn her name from the nomination list for this year’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“I don’t feel I have earned that right. I don’t want the votes to be split because of me, so I must respectfully bow out,” she says.
“I do hope (they’ll) be willing to consider me again – if I’m ever worthy.” Whaaaaat? The legendary Dolly, 76, has composed more than 3,000 songs – including the Whitney Houston smash hit I Will Always Love You – and few acts are fit to lick her diamanté cowboy boots.
Meanwhile, the rest of the mostly male list of nominees, including Eminem, Lionel Richie, Rage Against The Machine, Judas Priest and Beck, are all still in the running.
Sweeping general- isation, I know, but it’s a troubling character trait of many women (“What, little old me?”) to feel (or feel the need to convey) imposter syndrome when praised for doing well.
Whereas the majority of men tend to think: “I’m absolutely brilliant so this is totally deserved.”
TACKLE NAKED TRUTHS
A SEX education charity chief says teachers should avoid telling teenagers not to send nude images of them-selves to classmates – because “abstinence-based” messages could deter them from reporting it if those images are then shared.
She adds that the focus in lessons should be on consent, and addressing the issue of images being shared without permission.
Hang on, surely the emphasis should actually be on both? Yes, those sharing the photos are the villains of the piece.
But warning girls and boys that the best way to avoid a nude image being shared is to not send it in the first place isn’t “victim-blaming”, it’s common sense.
‘HAPPIEST HE’D BEEN’
SHANE WARNE’S counsellor has revealed that the cricket legend thought he had 30 years left to live and was, “the happiest he’d been just before he died”.
Lianne Young, who gave him relationship advice from 2015, added that he was ready to settle down and keen to get back to a healthy way of living.
Call me old-fashioned, but aren’t counselling sessions supposed to be kept private?
MENTAL health services received a record 4.3million referrals last year (in England alone) as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the population’s wellbeing.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists says it’s the biggest hit to mental health “in generations”.
A reminder that, as predicted, the fallout of several lockdowns may yet prove a far greater scourge than the virus itself.
A LOAD OF BULL, HARRY
WITH cowboy hat and customary glare at the camera, Prince Harry was photographed attending a Texan rodeo.
Fellow attendee Corey Melton, a bull wrangler, wrote on Instagram: “We get a lot of rodeo royalty, but this is the first prince I’ve seen.”
Meanwhile, rodeo secretary Cindy Reid posted a message in which she thanked Harry for his visit.
Yet, just hours after the original photo appeared, it was mysteriously deleted, along with the two messages mentioned above.
Cripes. Russia’s media censorship skills have nothing on the Suss-skis.
- THE Duchess of Sussex is being sued by half-sister Samantha Markle over claims she made about their relationship to Oprah Winfrey. And therein lies the problem with giving interviews on the world stage. You can give “my truth” to the masses and they can’t really contest it unless it’s provably false. But when it comes to families who have known you since birth, they have “their truth” and if it doesn’t concur with “your truth” then it can end up in an expensive court case to thrash out what’s “the truth”. As ever, there’s just one winner: Lawyers.
WOMEN are reportedly being forced to buy HRT on the black market because of a nationwide shortage.
Having just returned from a two-week trip to Egypt, where my luggage and HRT medication didn’t join me, I understand their desperation.