August 2, 2014

Thoughts on That Beautiful Gaza "Leaflet Sky"

If you’ve been following the Bag, you know I keep an open mind about the line between news photography and more impressionistic forms of the craft. In this case however, this gorgeous and, yes, peaceful photo of Gaza City feels so wrong to me right now. (I pulled the photo above from the Charlotte Observer’s Daily Edit, which I otherwise admire as one of the best and smartest collections of news photos out there, from their 7/31/14 offering,). In my tweet about it yesterday, I actually likened the photo to van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” On second though, however, it seems the reference gets more complicated after the title, given the painting is so surreal. The stronger connection is probably to the fact it was painted in an insane asylum. (And then, there is also the association, just as discomforting, to paintings of starry skies over Bethlehem.)

And while we’re talking, you know I’m just as mindful about the tone of news photo slideshows and how the individual pictures inform (or deform?) other. That said, here’s image #43 in the same edit. (The photo above is #29.)

If the same edition of The Daily Edit hadn’t also included splayed out animals killed by airstrikes (#44), citizens combing through rubble collecting body parts (#38, 41), and still more concerning images from Gaza (#30-36, 39-43 and 44-50 … before the baseball pictures start, I would surely have given this second photo the benefit of the doubt as to artistry. As it dialogues with Leaflet Sky, however (knowing how the leafletting is already such a controversial exercise), and the other gruesome images among the 55, I don’t know about the abstraction or anything even like a child’s game.

(photo: Mohammed Abed/ AFP/Getty Images. caption: TOPSHOTS Flyers are dropped over Gaza City by the Israeli army urging residents to evacuate their homes on July 30, 2014. Israeli bombardments early on July 30 killed “dozens” of Palestinians in Gaza, including at least 16 at a UN school, medics said, on day 23 of the Israel-Hamas conflict.)

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Michael Shaw
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