Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
May 20, 2007

Seeing Iraq Through The Heat Of Battle, Politics (And, Oh Yeah, A Cover On The Lens Cap!)

Iraq-Fleeing

Joao Silva’s image in this morning’s NYT Week In Review is simply eloquent in the way it evokes, but also pragmatically undermines the piece it accompanies.

The article, In the Heat of Battle and Politics, the Hard Facts Melt, asks  “How can a single country look so kaleidoscopically different depending on the point of view?”  In the text, the problems in perception are attributed to: 1.) competing political agendas; 2.) the breakdown in the flow of information out of the Iraqi government;  3.) The growing “blanket of security” between Iraqi officials and life in Baghdad; and  4.) The desire of American officials to only hear what they want to hear.

What the photo implies, however — which the more lofty and analytical article seemed intent on looking beyond — is how much perceptual problem regarding Iraq are being caused by the pure physical inability to see and hear.

Which brings me to an attendant political consequence the article might have referenced, which is: censorship.  In another piece of news mostly noticed by the blogosphere, it was reported on Friday that the Iraqi government has banned media coverage of bombings.  (See the IraqSlogger report here.)  Given this news, its curious to take a fresh pass at Mr. Silva’s caption:

OBSCURED. Basic information like how many civilians have died can be impossible to pin down in Iraq. At left, the aftermath of a suicide bombing.

The main reason Iraq looks “so kaleidoscopically different,” at this point, is because the place is sheer chaos and because (for both practical and political reasons) there are just not enough independent eyes available through which to monitor hell.

(image: Joao Silva.  May 2007.  Iraq.  nytimes.com)

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