January 16, 2011

Big Media Sent 3 Of My Favorite War Photographers to Afghanistan And What They Brought Back Were The Near-Same Medevac Shots

What really dismays me — the Afghan war crying out for context as far as big media is concerned — is how three major organizations could send out three of the best photographers in the business and, within the space of just over two weeks, proudly publish nearly the same photo-story.

Not to take anything away from the thoroughly accomplished James Nachtwey, Louie Palu and Tyler Hicks, but what does it tell us that TIME, The Toronto Star and The New York Times all offered us powerful, dramatic and overlapping photo-stories of U.S. medevac teams saving U.S and Afghan lives via helicopter “missions of mercy.”

Is this pure coincidence? Or, does it illustrate (too well, in this case) the acumen of the Pentagon in the mediating of war access? Either way, in the aggregate this is a stunning display of American chauvinism given the intimate framing of the war in such a redundantly heroic narrative, all eyes on our warriors as saviors on high. And then, what does it mean that such high-profile redundancy can occur with hardly a notice?

Photo 1: James Nachtwey for TIME. ArticleThe Birds Of Hope: With A Black Hawk Medevac Unit In AfghanistanPhoto Gallery.  January 17, 2011. Caption: Life Struggle: The injured Marine is treated by crew members. He survived the IED blast but lost both of his legs.

Photo 2: Louie Palu/Zuma Press. Toronto Star articleFrontline medevac teams are life-savers in AfghanistanSlideshow. 01/01/2011.  Caption: US Army flight Medic SGT Patrick Schultz talks to a wounded US soldier in the rear of a medevac helicopter while enroute to Kandahar Airfield after he was injured by an improvised explosive device in Zhari District, Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Photo 3: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times. ArticleIn Wider War in Afghanistan, Survival Rate of Wounded Rises. Slideshow: Speeding the War Wounded to Care.  January 8, 2011. Caption: The number of medevac helicopters in service has risen sharply, meaning more of the war’s wounded are being saved.


Update 1/21/11: In the post above, I imply that Louie Palu was assigned to the medevac story by the Toronto Star.  Instead, they picked up a story he shot in October. When these photos were specifically taken and whether they were assigned or acquired after the fact does not alter the fact that such similar subject matter was published by three large and independent media organizations is such such close proximity.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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