When a picture is worth a thousand words

National Herald brings you a collection of eight iconic snapshots which have redefined photojournalism

When a picture is worth a thousand words
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NH Web Desk

Curated by Tathagata Bhattacharya

The language of pictures is not just the most ancient of all languages of communication, it is perhaps the only language that is universally understood. In the annals of photojournalism, there have been a few pictures involving children which have remained etched in public memory. They remind us of a world far removed from the safety and security we all crave for. They bring us to a brutal realisation that life is short and unpredictable - that in this world, there are wars, there are disasters, both natural and manmade; that this world is not all about joy and good things but also one of pain, loss, cruelty and suffering.

Migrant Mother (1936)

When a picture is worth a thousand words
Dorothea Lange took this photograph in 1936, while employed by the US government’s Farm Security Administration programme, formed during the Great Depression to raise awareness of and provide aid to impoverished farmers. In Nipomo, California, Lange came across Florence Owens Thompson and her children in a camp filled with fieldworkers whose livelihoods were devastated by the failure of the pea crops.Recalling her encounter with Thompson years later, she said, “I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction.” One photograph from that shoot, now known as Migrant Mother, was widely circulated to magazines and newspapers and became a symbol of the plight of migrant farm workers during the Great Depression.

The Vulture and The Little Girl (1993)

When a picture is worth a thousand words
This was clicked by Kevin Carter which first appeared in The New York Times on March 26, 1993. It is a photograph of a frail famine-stricken boy, initially believed to be a girl, who had collapsed in the foreground with a vulture eyeing him from nearby. The child was reported to be attempting to reach a United Nations feeding centre in Ayod, South Sudan, in March 1993. The picture won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography award in 1994. Carter was severely criticised for clicking the picture and not rescuing the boy though he insisted that the boy recovered and managed to reach the UN centre. Four months after being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography, Carter died of suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning on July 27, 1994, at the age of 33. Desmond Tutu,then Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, wrote of Carter: “And we know a little about the cost of being traumatised that drove some to suicide, that, yes, these people were human beings operating under the most demanding of conditions.”

Bloody Saturday/Shanghai Boy (1937)

When a picture is worth a thousand words
Depicting a Chinese baby crying within the bombed-out ruins of Shanghai South Railway Station, the photograph became known as a cultural icon demonstrating Japanese war time atrocities in China. Taken a few minutes after a Japanese air attack on civilians during the Battle of Shanghai, Hearst Corporation photographer HS “Newsreel” Wong, did not discover the identity or even the sex of the injured child, whose mother lay dead nearby. One of the most memorable war photographs ever published, and perhaps the most famous newsreel scene of the 1930s, the image stimulated an outpouring of western anger against Japanese violence in China. Journalist Harold Isaacs called the iconic image “one of the most successful propaganda pieces of all time”. In Wong’s words: “It was a horrible sight. People were still trying to get up. Dead and injured lay strewn across the tracks and platform. Limbs lay all over the place. Only my work helped me forget what I was seeing. I stopped to reload my camera. I noticed that my shoes were soaked with blood. I walked across the railway tracks, and made many long scenes with the burning overhead bridge in the background. Then I saw a man pick up a baby from the tracks and carry him to the platform. He went back to get another badly injured child. The mother lay dead on the tracks. As I filmed this tragedy, I heard the sound of planes returning. Quickly, I shot my remaining few feet [of film] on the baby. I ran toward the child, intending to carry him to safety, but the father returned. The bombers passed overhead. No bombs were dropped.”

Crying Honduran Girl (2018)

When a picture is worth a thousand words
John Moore, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for Getty Images, said the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents— part of its “zero tolerance” stance toward people who illegally cross into the US — has changed everything about enforcement at the US-Mexico border and resulted in a level of despair for immigrants that Americans can no longer ignore. The photograph of the girl was used for a much controversial cover visual of TIME magazine where she stands in front of a visibly angry Donald Trump.                                                                                              “It’s a very different scene now,” Moore told TIME. “I’m almost positive these families last week had no idea they’d be separated from their children.”Moore’s image of June 12, 2018, of the two-year-old crying Honduran girl has become a symbol of the human cost and cruelty of Trump’s hard line on immigration. The crying girl has become the face of the family separation policy, which has been criticised by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Napalm Girl (1972)

When a picture is worth a thousand words
Associated Press photographer Nick Ut captured the horror of the Vietnam War in a single, Pulitzer Prize–winning frame of a young girl fleeing her village after being torched by napalm dropped by a South Vietnamese Air Force Skyraider. In Ut’s words: “When I first saw the napalm explosion, I didn’t think there were any civilians in the village. Four napalm bombs were dropped. In the previous two days, thousands of refugees had already fled the village. Then I started to see people come out of the fireball and smoke. I picked up my Nikon camera with a 300mm and started shooting. As they got closer I switched to my Leica. First there was a grandmother carrying a baby who died in front of my camera. Then I saw through the viewfinder of my Leica, the naked girl running. I thought, ‘Oh my God. What happened? The girl has no clothes.’ I kept shooting with my Leica M2 with my 35-mm f2 lens. That camera is now in the Newseum in Washington. I took almost a roll of Tri-x film of her then I saw her skin coming off and I stopped taking pictures. I didn’t want her to die. I wanted to help her. I put my cameras down on the road. We poured water over this young girl. Her name was Kim Phuc. She kept yelling, ‘nóng quá (too hot)’. We were all in shock.”

Bhopal Girl (1984)

When a picture is worth a thousand words
Raghu Rai, clicked this picture in the morning after the world’s worst industrial disaster struck Bhopal, India, on the night of December 2, 1984.More than 20,000 persons have died since deadly menthyl-iso-cyanate leaked from multinational firm Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide formulation factory in Bhopal. As 40 tons of this deadly gas leaked from the plant and rained over the city of Bhopal in central India on the night of December 2, 1984, an estimated 8,000 persons died within the first three days,and a population of nearly half a million was severely affected. More than 150,000 survivors have been injured for life. The immediate aftermath of the tragedy was nothing less than a holocaust. People did not know what had hit them, and in the absence of knowledge regarding the nature of the poison and its antidote, ran for their life in the darkness.Not a single person has been held criminally liable for an act that left 20,000 people dead and 150,000 maimed for life.

Oklahoma City Bombing (1995)

When a picture is worth a thousand words
Charles Porter captured this heartbreaking scene from the aftermath of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, US. Porter was an aspiring journalist at the time, working in the loan department of Liberty Bank near the Murrah Building. When the blast shook the bank building, Porter grabbed his camera and ran to document the story. The explosion killed 168 people, including 1-year-old Baylee Almon, the child in Porter’s picture. Porter won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography in 1996. Porter credits 1982 Pulitzer winner John White of Chicago for advising him to “keep a loaded camera in my car at all times.” Porter’s camera was on the back seat when he went to retrieve it on the morning of the bombing. Porter’s photograph was distributed by Associated Press.

Alan Kurdi (2015)

When a picture is worth a thousand words
Nilüfer Demir, a Turkish photojournalist, based in Bodrum, Turkey was covering the European migrant crisis during the summer of 2015 and her photographs of Alan Kurdi became world news on September 2, 2015.She came across the body of Kurdi on the beach and took a number of photos.Alan Kurdi, initially reported as Aylan Kurdi, was athree-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish ethnic background whose image made global headlines after he drowned on September 2, 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea. He and his family were Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe amid the European refugee crisis. The photographs of his body washed ashore quickly spread around the world,prompting international responses. Because Kurdi’s family had reportedly been trying to reach Canada, his death and the wider refugee crisis immediately became an issue in the 2015 Canadian federal election. In the early hours of September 2, 2015, Kurdi and his family boarded a small rubber inflatable boat, which capsized about five minutes after leaving Bodrum in Turkey. Sixteen people were in the boat, which was designed for a maximum of eight people. They were trying to reach the Greek island of Kos, about 30 minutes (4 kilometres) from Bodrum. Kurdi’s father said they were wearing life jackets but they“were all fake.”

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