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I could show you photos from the Israeli air strike on the U.N. school in Beit Hanoun yesterday. I could show you pictures from the punishing assault on Shejaiya five days ago. Or, we could look again at photos of what happened after that hun boat strike that killed those children at the Gaza City shore nine days ago. ONE, TWO. Or we could look at Alessio Romenzi’s twenty photos that seem to touch every nerve. Ultimately though, I don’t think I could show you another photo of the Gaza assault that isn’t embodied in some way by this photo of Abdul Rahman taken twelve days ago in Gaza City after losing eighteen members of his family at the same time.
What is commanding the world’s attention in this latest war and the Israeli bombardment, and is prominent in Romenzi’s photos, is the toll it has taken, and continues to take on children. Looking at hundreds of news photos every day, I’ve been stunned by the number of Abdul Rahmans, as well as the stricken others here, I’ve been seeing for weeks now. Grief is the commitment of a soul to a psychic fire that rages wildly for a year then just keeps searing. This is the outset.
I don’t want to talk about iconic photos. It’s too easy to distance oneself by turning the photo into an object. Of course, that’s unavoidable here in our daily exploration of the role and the meaning of pictures in our visual culture and our visual media. Just not this time.
(photo: Mohammed Salem/Reuters. caption: The son (L) of one of the Palestinian members of Tayseer Al-Batsh’s family, who hospital officials said were killed in an Israeli air strike, mourns during their funeral in Gaza City July 13, 2014. The Israeli air strike on the family home of Al-Batsh, Gaza’s police chief, killed 18 people on Saturday, Gaza’s health ministry said, and Hamas fired the largest salvo of rockets yet on Tel Aviv since the start of the Jewish state’s offensive in the Palestinian enclave. The strike on the home of Al-Batsh in Gaza City was the deadliest bombing since Israel launched its offensive on Tuesday to end Palestinian rocket fire into its territory. Thousands fled their homes in a Gaza town on Sunday after Israel warned them to leave ahead of threatened attacks on rocket-launching sites, on the sixth day of an offensive that Palestinian officials said has killed at least 160 people.)