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Friday, 12 July 2019

Faces of the dead



I submitted my latest article for Witness at the end of last week. I write about a few things including the picture of Oscar and Valeria Martinez lying dead in the rushes of the Rio Grande and deserving and undeserving victims.

I really don't know what the right thing is to do with images of death, to show them or not show them. I don't think anyone knows. I do know that far fewer images of death are shown in newspapers than 30 years ago - and the world appears nicer because of it. But at the same time, there are far more images of death floating around in different channels. The only channels they don't go into are official news channels.

And that's  discomforting because when images aren't there, there is a massive void, a huge gap. The stand out example is the Great Famine in China when 40 plus million people died. And there's not one picture.

The same happened with Srebenica, an industrial scale massacre of over 8,000 people that took place over a few days in 1995.. Are there any pictures of the actual murders?

I don't know if it would make any difference in terms of policy or action (and evidence suggests it wouldn't - not in the long term), but it could hit all those hand-wringing guilt buttons that are kind of better than not having a clue what's going on and being able to remain completely oblivious..

Anyway, these are photos of those massacred in Srebenica... The faces make a difference. It's a hand-wringing, isn't it terrible difference, but I think that's better than nothing, especially in the current climate.

Compare to being callous, cruel and destructive, hand-wringing is an absolutely brilliant response, as is generosity, empathy and kindness.

This is what the collector of the photos, Dzenana Halimovic, said about the images.

'When I started collecting photos of the people killed in Srebrenica, the task at first seemed like a clerical one.

I looked for names, birthdates, and anything else that would help me sort through the records.

In a way it was a microcosm of the Bosnian war itself. Everyone knew the names of the first victims as Yugoslavia disintegrated into interethnic chaos in 1991. But as the war continued over the next few years, names turned to numbers. As humanity seemed to disappear, so did any semblance of personhood.

But then I started to look at the faces.'

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