Thursday, 2 October 2014

Gaza and The Cathay Hotel Bombing: What's changed?

More from Historical Chinese pictures, this time from A.Fong's album of the Sino-Japanese Hostilities. 1,740 civilians were killed in these pictures, when a Chinese plane accidentally dropped a bomb on the Cathay Hotel. It's a bit unrepresentative because most of the time it was the Japanese very deliberately killing Chinese civilians. 

It's horrific - and it's interesting to see that Life published pictures of dead children with their bottom halves blown off. 

These are the kind of images you get to see if you work on the AFP picture desk. They come in from Syria, Iraq and Gaza and it's terrible to look at. Most of us don't get to see these pictures but if you're on a picture desk you do. This is what Roland de Courson writes about in this AFP blog post. Here are a couple of extracts ...

"Horrific images are nothing new in the Middle East," said the photo editor Marina Passos. "Ten years ago in Iraq, they were already decapitating people. Everyone remembers the four Americans whose burnt bodies were mutilated with shovels by a mob, then hung from a bridge in Fallujah in 2004. What has changed is that the horrific images used to come once or twice a month. Now it is every day."
When AFP sends out distressing images to its clients, it includes a content warning. It is then up to each client to decide whether to publish them. "Although we do not censor images of death, we are well aware that many networks will not play close-ups of gory injuries and dead bodies. So we stay wide," said Jihan Ammar, video coordinator for the region.
"Here in the video department, we were watching children being pulled out of rubble with no limbs. Parents screaming in despair," she said. "Not only were we seeing these graphic images on large screens in front of us, but they were also playing on Arab networks on the TV screens."

So they show the horrors of war on Arab network, but in the UK and in most of Europe and North America, we don't show those kinds of images. But as these pictures from Shanghai show, we used to. What changed?

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