Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 14, 2015

Maternal Instinct

This photograph was submitted by one of our readers, Don Fitzsimons, responding to a comment about the picture in the Jakarta Post. The comment stated that the publication of the photo was in poor taste for showing a woman breastfeeding while locked in a cage.

The photo caption reads:

Heather Mack of the US holds her baby before standing trial at a court in Denpasar, Bali, on Tuesday. Prosecutors recommended that Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer spend 15 years and 18 years, respectively, behind bars for the “sadistic” murder of Mack’s mother, whose body was found stuffed into a suitcase in Bali.

Fitzsimons writes:

The first comment on the image accompanying the report of Heather Mack awaiting sentencing reproached the source for poor taste.

We rely on the signification in images of mother and child to connote love, warmth and protection. This image jarringly puts our usual safe assumptions into conflict because the mother feeding her baby is accused of matricide. Motherly protection of the child seems meaningless seen through bars protecting us from the mother.

Is it poor taste because of the breast feeding? Or is it our unease at viewing the scene as if it were a zoo exhibit, violating their privacy?

Your thoughts?

(Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP)

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