Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 10, 2010

Oil Blowout: The Point, If Not Clear, Is That People Are Burning Up

The public’s frustration over the oil disaster, coupled with the impotent response of the government and the “powers-that-be” only intensifies the feeling of horror and disconnection we feel in the face of AP photographer Charlie Reidel’s mummified birds, or the act, captured by EPA photographer Jim Lo Scalzo this morning, of this woman — identified as a fisherwoman from Texas — pouring an oil-like substance over herself in the middle of a Senate Energy Committee hearing featuring the Interior Secretary.

It’s not just the government that is not quite getting it, though. It’s also the media that is pulling its punches. What makes these images so terrifying and threatening is how much this woman, Diane Wilson, simulates the act of someone preparing to burn herself to death.

If you notice which photos the media is circulating, however (as evidenced by these slideshows at Zimbio, Houston Chronicle and HuffPo), they mostly steer clear of the act of dousing (especially involving the head), thus running from connection to self-immolation. (And, let’s not even get started on the lack of pictures of the victims incinerated on that oil rig.)

If people — having been marginalized down to nothing by America Inc. — have just about had it, it’s only through the small outbreaks of visual evidence that we can feel ourselves burning up.

(photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

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