August 1, 2014

Between Israel and Gaza, How the Pictures Could Possibly Relate

If your article or slideshow features a Muslim child wrapped in a shroud being carried through an apartment block that has just been reduced to rubble, then it better have a weeping mother peering down at a soldier’s casket draped in the Star of David on a hilltop shaded by olive trees.

What does it even mean to do justice to the soul-crushing photos pouring out of Gaza and Israel these past three weeks? And then, honestly, where does balance come into it? Where is that algorithm?

The apartment photo was taken on the eighth day of the current hostilities. The shelter photo was taken in the last three days.  The first caption reads:

In this Tuesday, July 15, 2014 photo, a TV screen shows the ongoing fighting between Israel and Gaza at a house in south Tel Aviv, Israel. Israelis are struggling to decide whether to keep up with the nonstop TV coverage of the fighting or tune out entirely.

And the second:

Wounded Palestinians after the shelling in Shejaiya. The announced pause in the fighting caused confusion on the ground.

As coherent (or insane) as any justification in a conflict that, visually, has defied any kind of parity, these photos spoke to me through a proverbial and pictorial maxim. If you click the apartment photo for larger size, you’ll see the monkeys on the surface under the monitor. Historically and ironically, these figures in the East used to stand for wisdom. Here both photographs ask, also speaking for the shortfall in the other senses, what’s happened to the vision?

(photo 1: Oded Balilty/AP. photo 2: Sergey Ponomarev for the New York Times)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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