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

A Photo's Reach: Barbara Davidson Revisits the Navajo, Eddie Adams and Capa, Too

If this picture is familiar to you, it’s from Barbara Davidson’s eloquent story, “Frozen Land, Forgotten People,” a photo project that earned her a Picture of the Year, International award in 2010. It was about a development ban, based on a land dispute between different tribes, that dealt a crushing blow to the lives of the Navajo in Arizona. (Here is the 33 photo edit from POY, and you can view the audio slideshow in color on the LA Times photo site.)

Ever interested in “reading” the pictures, the photo caught our attention because Barbara featured nine of the black-and-white images from the original series on her Instagram last week. Far from just tapping the archive, however, the text accompanying this photo is an update on, in this case, the woeful lack of progress in the federal rehabilitation of the land, even though the President cleared the way for that to happen in 2009.

Beyond the understanding that photojournalism is timeless (and that media’s bandwidth to revisit noteworthy events and stories is always at a premium), we are continuously interested in the way certain photos remind us of others, and the way those similarities increase a picture’s own impact and resonance. Given this photo has surfaced again, it allows us to appreciate it more fully, not just as a moment in time but as compliment to photos that are deeply familiar. For example, beyond the poignant channeling of Indian frustration and the storyline of internecine conflict, I also catch an echo of the famous Eddie Adams Saigon execution photo. And, if you keep the most open mind as the photo expands onto the plain of that level of historic photojournalism, I can almost see Robert Capa’s falling man about to topple, too.

(update: The post incorrectly stated the photo story won a Pulitzer. In addition to POYi, it has won other recognition, including the NPPA’s Cliff Edom “New America Award.”)

(photo: Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times. original caption: Landric Begay, 3, plays with a gun in the backyard area that his Mother wishes was “more better” for her children. On this reservation in the Arizona desert, they have no shade and play on a dusty surface.)

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