Tales, Truths & Tirades – 22 September 2016


The traditional role of the professional photographer in journalism has all but disappeared. More and more media organisations are getting rid of their photographers. Technology, shrinking budgets and the increasing pressure on journalists to become jacks of all trades have played a role. The times they certainly are ‘a-changin’.
That dramatic photograph of a young boy sitting dazed and bloodied in the back of an ambulance after surviving an airstrike in Syria wasn’t taken by a professional news photographer. The picture of the Aleppo Boy, published by newspapers all over the globe, was a “frame grab” or screenshot taken from television footage.
The world of photography may be changing but the sacrifices by professional news photographers over the years and the treasure-trove of unforgettable work left behind can never be undone. I tried to pay homage to at least some of them last week when we discussed ten of history’s most iconic pictures in my second-year journalism class.
Two very famous photographs from the 20th century, which again made news headlines recently, triggered our discussion. The first one is Alfred Eisenstaedt’s beautiful picture of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square. It was taken on August 14, 1945, when it became known that Japan had surrendered. The woman in that iconic picture, Greta Friedman, died two weeks ago at the age of 92, which resulted in the resurgence of the photo.
The second image, known as The Napalm Girl, is photographer Nick Ut’s haunting Pulitzer Prize-winning picture of a naked 9-year-old girl running toward the camera after a Napalm attack during the Vietnam War. This picture, taken on June 8, 1972, is thought to be one of the most memorable photographs of the 20th century. It was in the news again last week when Facebook initially removed and blocked a post containing the picture, and then later reinstated it after an international outcry and an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg. Even the prime minister of Norway became involved.
Remember that old Chinese curse? We indeed live in interesting times.