March 5, 2012

Iran: The Harsh Light of Western Exposure?


I’m interest in what role the visual media is playing as part of the drum beat for war with Iran. I’m thinking about cropping, pulling out a single from a series, going full page, bumping the contrast, adding titles, that sort of thing.

For example, take the photo above, a story prize winner in this year’s World Press Photo awards. As the ninth photo in a twelve picture series by Iranian photographer, Ebrahim Noroozi, the image is one component of a story reflecting on Iran’s use of public hanging as punishment (as well as a deterrent)  for severe crimes. The victim in this case, Mehdi Farahj, was executed for the rape and murder of five women.

I don’t have access to the section of Murdoch’s Sunday Times photography feature. I believe the page above, however, was the inside cover. What I’m wondering is: what happens when you extract this single photo out of the series, you tweak the contrast and you crop it to highlight the act (rather than the backstory) of the hanging. (See original just below which you can click for larger size.) Also, how is the trajectory of meaning potentially expanded with this more generic anchor text: “The Harsh Light of Day”?

Overall, what I’m wondering is how much this treatment repurposes the photo to frame Iran, itself, as a pariah, the allusion to a day of reckoning casting a rope around the state more so than its extreme, if judicial treatment of citizens who rape and kill women.

(photo: Ebrahim Noroozi caption: Hanging in Iran. 26 May 2011.  Public hangings in Qazvin, 110 kilometers west of Tehran, where one of the executed, Mehdi Farahj, nicknamed ‘the driver of death’, raped and killed the first of five women. Public execution, such as hanging, is one of the Islamic punishments aimed at preventing such crimes as rape and murder and occasionally fraud. Official numbers for execution by hanging in Iran do not exist, but the country is alleged to have the second-highest execution rate in the world after China.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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