Saturday, March 18, 2017

Controversial Photography

 Here are some photos that have sparked conversations and controversy.
WARNING: Some of these images are shocking and not for sensitive viewers.

Thomas Hoepker’s 9/11 photograph (2001)

The German photographer’s image shows a group of seemingly relaxed young Americans with the burning twin towers in the background. The picture was published in 2006 making the subjects out as callous. A man later identified himself as one of the group and expressed that they were “in a profound state of shock and disbelief”. The photograph is now considered as one of the defining images of the September 11th attacks.

Image of the Sudan Famine by Kevin Carter (1993)

This Pulitzer Prize winning photograph became a vivid representation of the harsh realities of Sudan’s famine. The photographer, Kevin Carter, encountered and photographed a toddler who had stopped to rest whilst crawling towards some food, as a vulture waited close-by. Many were concerned with the fate of the girl and criticized Carter for not helping the child, calling him “another predator”. Carter later committed suicide, making reference to the devastating images he had been exposed to in his suicide note.

The Falling Man, Richard Drew (2001)

Whilst covering 9/11 for the Associated Press, Richard Drew, took a number of photographs of men and women who chose to jump to their deaths rather than be burned in the fire. One image, however, stood out from the rest. Dubbed “The falling man”, it depicted a man in what has been described as a ‘calm’ moment whilst falling from the tower. Many opposed the publishing of the photo, citing that the image was too disturbing.

Napalm ( 1972)

This haunting image is the work of another Associated Press photographer, Huynh Cong Ut, which has been credited as contributing to the end of the Vietnam war. The children in the photograph were escaping from a village that had just been attacked. The naked girl – who was burning at the time –  came to represent the horrors of the war. The photograph became a symbol of the massive peace movement that took place in the ’70s.

The Burning Monk (1963)

During Vietnam’s Diem regime, a group of Buddhist monks held a protest against their oppressive treatment by the Catholic regime. What started as a simple procession quickly turned into a grim image. Quang-Duc, a 66-year-old monk set himself alight in a meditative position and remained still and silent as the flames ate away at him. When this was captured by photographer Malcome Brown, it gave the world a glimpse of the situation within the country and even prompted president JFK to step in.

Iraqi War Prisoner (2002)

Taken by Jean-Marc Bouju, this image from the Iraqi war both shocked and touched the world. The prisoner and his son were being held at a U.S. army base camp and the father had been hooded and hand-cuffed. The boy was terrified by the sight and the man’s hands were later freed to enable him to comfort his son. The image was awarded the 2003 World Press Photo of  the year.

Fire on Marlborough Street (1975)

Stanley Forman’s photograph won a Pulitzer Prize and caused the updating of legislation regarding fire escapes in the United States. Two girls are captured falling, after a fire escape collapsed beneath them.  The 19-year-old reportedly broke the fall of the younger girl, who later died in hospital. The public reacted by accusing the photographer of invading the privacy of the victims and described newspapers that had published the image as being sensationalist.

Omayra Sanchez (1985)

The 13-year-old Colombian girl was caught in the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz. She was frozen in an image by Frank Fournier, shortly before she died. Omayra had been trapped for three days in the ruins of her home, the Red Cross requested help with her rescue from the government, but their requests were in vain. Many were disturbed at the idea of witnessing the young girl’s last moments and more were shocked that the government did not intervene.

Samar Hassan (2005)



Chris Hondros was covering the war in Iraq when he witnessed the events that would create what could be the most devastating image to come out of the Iraq war. An Iraqi family failed to stop at a checkpoint and were soon confronted with bullets from the American soldiers. Hondros photographed the 5-year-old Samar Hassan, crying whilst covered in her parent’s blood.

Michael Jackson (2009)

Shortly after his death, an image of the King of Pop, during his very last moments was featured by OK! magazine and a number of other publications. The photograph of a frail Michael was considered by many to be in bad taste.

Doomed (2012)

We have to add an 11th photo. In a very recent photo taken by a freelance journalist for the New York Post, R. Umar Abbasi, a man is shown moments before dying. The photographer said that he inadvertently stumbled upon the killing of a Korean man, Ki Suk Han. He was pushed on the subway tracks in NYC by an unidentified assailant. The paper ran the photo, it read: “Pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die. DOOMED.”

The 7/7 London Bombers  (2005)

On July 7th, 2005, four Islamic terrorists exploded a series of bombs on London Underground trains. 52 lives were unfortunately lost during the attack. The bombers are now known as Mohammad Sidique Khan, Germaine Lindsay, Shehzad Tanweer and Hasib Hussain, and were recorded by CCTV when entering Luton train station. On September 1st, 2005, al-Qaeda officially claimed responsibility for the London bombings, despite the fact an official British government inquiry found that the tape may have been heavily edited after the attack, and also that the suicide bombers may not have had direct assistance from al-Qaeda. Iranian newspapers blamed the attacks on both the British and American authorities, and stated they had done so to escalate harassment of Muslims in Europe.

Brook Shields' Nude Photos




The nude Brook Shields photos were taken by Gary Gross, an American fashion photographer, who took a series of photographs that would become one of the most controversial collections in history. The above image is of 10-year-old Brooke Shields, who is now a famous actress, and shows her standing nude, as well as sitting in a bathtub wearing make-up. Gary Ross was working on the project The Woman in the Child, which aimed to reveal the femininity in prepubescent girls in comparison to adult women. Brooke’s mother consented to the photographs.


Executing a Viet Cong Prisoner in Saigon (1968)


The picture is controversial by Eddie Adams and it was taken during the Vietnam War on February 1, 1968. The man is being executed in cold blood and became an anti-war propaganda. What the picture does not tell you is what happened before, who the men in the photo were, and how they get there, at that moment, playing these roles, of executor and victim. The full story was that around 4:30 A.M., Lém (who was later killed by General Nguyen Ngoc Loan) led a sabotage unit along with Viet Cong tanks to attack the Armor Camp in Go Vap. After communist troops took control of the base, Lém arrested Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Tuan with his family and forced him to show them how to drive tanks. When Lieutenant Colonel Tuan refused to cooperate, Lém killed him and all members of his family including his 80-year-old mother. There was only one survivor, a seriously injured 10-year-old boy. Adams later apologized in person to General Nguyễn and his family for the damage it did to his reputation. When Loan died of cancer in Virginia, Adams praised him: "The guy was a hero. America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him." The photo won Adams the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography, though he was later said to have regretted its impact. The image became an anti-war icon. 
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“I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.” - Mahatma Ghandi

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