[c/n: Boston bombings]
My brain is still in Boston while my body sits here in Kansas. Everyone I know there is safe and well – but worried and vigilant. I still look at photos from Monday and think, “I’ve been there. I’ve walked down that street hundreds of times. I’ve been in those shops and buildings.”
I haven’t been able to wrap my head around it yet.
Now that the literal and figurative smoke has cleared a bit, I think we all start to process. As a photographer and social media professional, my instinct sometimes is to always cover the event, to get the story first – not just report it – and be FIRST, but a terrible, thirsty, seeking of knowledge and information. I was reading on a photography blog (c/n at the link for images of injured individuals and descriptions of the attack) yesterday how we needed to let the information flow freely in the “Internet Time”. Even while I was still desperately seeking information about what was going on in the city I love on Monday, I realized how… pornographic it felt.
I have to say I was pretty offended by that blog – which I can see as good or bad. Good because it makes me think about these things or bad because it’s a blog by Photoshelter, which is where I host my photos and galleries and that integrates with my website. My photography “business” as it were is intricately tied to this organization.
I want information. Especially when something happens in a place where I know people. It’s human nature to seek comfort from familiarity, to know that the ones we love are safe and well. On Monday, my own family called and texted me to make sure I was ok – even though I was 1500 miles away from the blasts.
I read the comments on that post, and I browse Reddit threads regarding the attacks, and I wonder – is this push of information helpful? The hive mind can be a great thing, but the number of misinformed reports that circulated with images of victims and that actually spurred racial profiling saddens and infuriates me. And while the dust settles, armchair forensic “experts” are already coming to their own conclusions.
Meanwhile, over a hundred people are injured. At least three are dead. Making a public, exhibitionist display of the trauma they and and all of us endured only re-traumatizes victims, viewers, and the rest of us.
I saw the original photo published by the Atlantic, before the face was blurred and before it was cropped. The gore of this young man having a leg destroyed in the explosion was nothing compared to the terror and pain on his face. Do you really think it was right to publish that image?
Ever since Liss over at Shakesville politely and firmly reprimanded some of us who were sharing information and photos about Newtown (I was one of them), I’ve been able to shift how I think in times like this. Are our voyeuristic tendencies that insatiable? Do we really need to see the photos of people injured and in pain and in terror?
Even the photographer in me says no.
Especially while it is still going on. While some of the photos from that day will certainly lead to more information about what really happened and help law enforcement exact justice… So many of those photos were taken in time that people should have put their cameras or phones down and gone to help. Put pressure on wounds. Help tear down barricades. Assist in directing traffic for ambulances. Hold hands and give comforting words.
In a world of “Internet Time” when editorial decisions must be made in seconds – not hours – have we forgotten what responsible reporting looks like?
A photo may be “worth a thousand words” – but is it worth losing the human instinct to help?
I have many conflicting professional and personal feelings on this, but in the end, I think my answer still comes out as “No.”
But I still don’t know how I might have responded that day if I were there with a camera in my hand.