September 16, 2015

Migrant Optics: Targeting Hungary (and Conjuring the Dark Evil of WWII)

Has Hungary become the visual fall guy for a crisis with no good humanitarian answer? As the recent newswire photo narrative reduced the migrant crisis down to “Hungary = evil, migrants, German and Austria = good,” that country’s early and ongoing hard line around border enforcement seems to be coming back to haunt them, at least in the North American news stream.

This 30 photo slideshow Reuters ran Monday seemed like piling on (even though, yes, there are shots interspersed of soldiers delivering water or being kind to children). Even trickier though, and surely a challenge for photo editors, is how, in a subliminal way, these contemporary images evoke these indelible photos from WWII of forced deportation and, even, “the final solution.”


Update: This photo post at the Guardian makes the connection more literal. Although it mostly steers clear of Nazi deportations, the piece juxtaposes current wire photos with images from WWII, including one combination paring refugees at a train station in Budapest this month with civilians in France crowding a rail station in 1940 to escape the advancing German army.)

(photo 1: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters caption: A young girl offers a flower as a man talks to a police officer during a demonstration by migrants outside the entrance to the main Eastern Railway station in Budapest, Hungary, September 1, 2015. photo 2: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters caption: A police officer stands guard as migrants stage a protest in front of a train at Bicske railway station, Hungary, September 4, 2015. photo 3: Stringer/Reuters caption: Riot police stand guard in front of a migrant reception center in Roszke, Hungary, September 4, 2015.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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