URN News Digest Vol No. 012: – Photography versus Pornography of the Dead

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“A picture is worth a thousand words” goes an old adage and a good picture does not require any accompanying story. It allows the reader to delve into their own world of imagination, draw out a context and interpret their own stories.

But a picture of a dead nude decomposing body is worth “a trillion emotions”.

While we strive to take dramatic pictures, telling pictures and pictures of happiness, conflict and death, two questions must stick in our minds.
• What is the purpose of the picture you are taking?
• For whom are you taking this picture?
• Who do you want to see this picture?
• And for what results?

What is the motive behind a photographer, who grabs his camera, rushes to a scene to capture real horrid pictures of a dead nude decomposing body?  To put this question into context, let me  refer to three pictures sent in this weekend from Fort-Portal linked to the pit sawyer murdered and buried in the saw waste.

The first picture showed the bulging, decomposing black man turned pink body, with all skin scaled off, lying vertically naked in the saw dust.

The second picture, a medium close up showed the swollen nude body, lying on top of the saw dust. Third image showed the body partly out of the saw dust but with the tree roots entrapping.

I must admit that a cold chill went running in my spine as soon as my curious eye pried over the first image. My moral self recoiled in horror. With shock and shame still spinning in my mind, I braved one more look at the pictures, for the sake of piecing up this article.

The three pictures depict what one of the writers has described as the “pornography of the suffering and the dead”.

The three images beg for the ethical and moral question of News reportage. Questions to the photographer- How would you react if you knew this man? How would you react of this man was your brother or even a relative? For what reason would you take this picture?

The commitment to tell the truth and to support the story that was already sent in and published should not override our need to be sensitive to the situations and people.

In the case of the three pictures, the photographer ought to have realized the need to be sensitive to the grieving family, respect for the dead, embarrassment of the deceased been pedaled naked for all to see.

To put this concern right, I want to allude to Ethic number four of the photographers;
• Treat all subjects with respect and dignity… intrude on the private moments of grief only when the public has a justifiable need to see.

Let’s not shun the pornography of the living and yet rejoice in taking pictures that glorify the pain of the deceased, the grieving, and the suffering. Cardinal rule. What’s the purpose of the picture you are taking? Who do you want to see that picture, what story does it tell.

Quote of the Week: Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light. — Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) was editor and publisher of the New York World and one of the great men of journalism of the 19th century.

Have a wonderful photography week.

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