The more closely you follow the photo newswire, the more images from particular conflicts start to run together. It’s for that reason a photo like this will naturally call itself out. It’s from a series of AP photos taken three days ago in the Ukraine. The newsier and more dramatic photo from the set is the one with an exploded piece of Grad missile sticking out of the ground in front of an adjoining, damaged apartment building. An incinerated car is just beyond it, as well as a man with a plastic shopping bag stepping by, eyeing the projectile. (You can see a more complete slideshow at NewsTimes.)
If you slow yourself down long enough to think about it, though, this shot by far is the more tragic and universal. In front of this damaged row of otherwise drab, uniform housing blocks, we realize this green-and-red steel frame (the colors offering dingy hint of a holiday vibe?) is not the carcass of a larger rocket but a modest piece of children’s climbing equipment. What did it mean to a child to climb on that structure a week ago? What does it mean to climb on the rocket in the immediate aftermath with wreckage around? And what will it mean to those children as the event starts to fade? As conflict in Ukraine, in Syria and all the other place blur, these are things we can see, feel and think about.
(photo: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP. caption: A man walks past an apartment building damaged by a Grad missile in Vostochniy district of Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine’s southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels.)