April 20, 2005

More Benetton


One or two columns back, Frank Rich was talking about the good use the right wing had been making out of death lately.  I’m sure he didn’t invent the term, but he described this type of exploitation as “necro-porn.”

Having looked at hundreds and hundreds of newswire photos after the tsunami last December, there is one newswire shot I saw —  taken in Indonesia two days after the cataclysm — that is still fresh in my mind.  The reason it remains so vivid is because it was one of the few that didn’t make me feel like a voyeur.  It showed a young man, maybe about seventeen, walking down the ramp of a thatched roof community building, carrying the body of a deceased relative wrapped in a thick bright carpet. 

What was unique about the shot, however, was how plainly obvious it was his picture was being taken.  Of course, there was no way to tell how much the smoldering anger on this boy’s face, and in his eyes, was the result of the shattering loss he was experiencing, or his reaction to the fact that someone — at that particular moment — had seen an opportunity in it. 

In contrast, I can’t tell if this nameless man — as part of a group of relatives of victims of the Marburg virus in the Angolan town of Uige — has any idea his picture is being taken.  However, I’m almost certain he has no idea his image was an “Editor’s Choice” today on the Reuters website– along with, among others, the new Pope, Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton and Lance Armstrong.

(image: Mike Hutchings/Reuters. April 19, 2005 at reuters.co.uk/)

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Michael Shaw
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