Sunday, July 03, 2005

Crisis for Crisis Pictures

The Bush Administration and the Pentagon may have feared distribution of the photos of flag-draped coffins arriving from Iraq, but poignant as they are, these are abstractions of death and sacrifice.

Crisis Pictures gave us something different — real pictures of war and its collateral effects, some too raw for family newspapers, some too subtle or too oblique to illustrate the story of the day. But you could go there and see for yourself the news from Iraq, Darfur or Palestine, presented in outtakes and photos that didn't sell. You could see the consequences of war, stripped of polemic and rationalization, reduced to human beings in their environment, frightened, stunned, outraged, bloodied, dead, saddened, numb, stoic, blindfolded, eviscerated, defiant, brave or simply not there any more. Because Crisis Pictures often presented sequences of photos, you could obtain a more rounded view than from a single image selected by a newspaper photo editor.

I was preparing a post that commented on some of these images when Crisis Pictures got locked out from its image server. Now the organization needs support, and it can't present the most compelling evidence of its value.

Although I can't link to the images I saw a week ago, I can still recall them:

Iraqi soldiers and policemen gather near what's left of the body of a suicide bomber. In another photo, an Iraqi officer, in plain clothes, prepares to step on the remains. The bomber's head sits upright in a smear of viscera. His lower legs splay 180 degrees from his head, like the blades of a propeller. That's all that's left. Every suicide bomber recruit should see this photo.

Young Marines in dress uniform stare out of formal portraits. They are so young. Their hats are absurdly large. They are dead.

Two soldiers walk through an alien streetscape that could have been art directed by Spielberg for a Star Wars movie. Everything in the minimalist scene is a shade of taupe — the uniforms, the ground, the buildings, the two boys watching — except for the charred wreckage of an automobile.

A Humvee sits on flat tires. Two soldiers work over a companion on the ground. The crimson stain beneath him widens in the dirt with each successive shot.

By Chris Hondros, Getty Images

We see an immaculate bedroom. A soldier looking for contraband begins to disrupt the carefully stacked rugs. An infant lies on the floor as soldiers search the house. (This part of the sequence can be seen at Dumb Life of Roots. I messed up the link in a earlier post.) But there are others. One soldier stands on the well-made bed in his boots, presumably for a better view of the top shelf of a cabinet his comrades are searching. In another shot, two soldiers with cameras mounted on their helmets go through the pages of a family album. No, this is not sending people off to death camps in cattle cars, but it is impossible to imagine how they could not feel defiled.

If we don't preserve this view of how our policies affect people around the world, who will?

Another link to a blog that retained Crisis Pictures:


Anonymous Thom H said...

Hi. Thanks for the email about this. I sent them a donation via Paypal--very easy.

If a person doesn't have that, Visa or MC will do.

One quick suggestion, if I may. If someone wants to use a photo from Crisis Pictures, he or she should not only give full credit and the link. But he or she should also upload the image into his or her own account / web server.

Directly linking to images is deadly on bandwidth--and a huge drag on the server. Always better to use a local copy on your own server. I'm sure 99% of the people blogging know this, but since new people are always coming online, thought I'd mention it.

(For what it's worth, the photos I've chosen).

Thanks, again. Best to all.

12:54 AM  
Blogger bob said...

Rather than comparing our troops to the Khmer Rouge how about using our propaganda skills to counter this administrations maddening attempts to quash any attempts at confronting Middle America with the realities of war. Like what Crises Pictures is doing. We need to present our argument without insulting the intelligence of mainstream America. Thanks for pointing this out, I'll be making a donation.

6:15 AM  
Blogger bob said...

And spreading the word.

6:47 AM  

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