Tuesday, December 21, 2004

What are the odds?

The subtext of this post by Wretchard asks: What are the odds that an AP photographer just happened to be there to snap pictures when three gunmen murdered two Iraqi election officials? He draws comparisons to Eddie Adams' famous photo of the execution of Vietcong Captain Bay Lop by South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan.
It may have been pure luck, but it was surely the longest of odds that would have brought an Associated Press cameraman to the site of a surprise attack on two Iraqi electoral workers. As it was, the AP photograph was unable to capture the actual execution, only the moments shortly before and after the Iraqis were killed. Although the Eddie Adams photograph was widely used to illustrate the 'brutality' of the Saigon government, the photos taken by the Associated Press are unlikely to reflect badly on the electoral worker's killers. Press reports highlight the confidence and boldness of the insurgents. "Both of the victims shown in the sequence wore traditional Arab headscarfs. In contrast, the attackers were bareheaded and apparently unafraid to show their faces", suggesting that 'collaborators' must conceal their faces while the Ba'athists stride with impunity through the light of day. It was fortunate for the AP that their photographer was accidentally there.

Laer spells out what Wretchard is hinting at:
As shocking as the photo is, it could have been much more shocking.

Zooming in would help, which could have been done by an editor as well as it could have been by a photographer.

Presumably, the next frame would have shown the execution, not the moment before the execution. Another frame might have shown the face of the person about to be executed. Either would have had much more impact than this photo.

[Eddie] Adams' photo was used to fuel anti-war sentiment, even though Bay Lop deserved his fate. It seems as if photo editors just may have decided they didn't want to fuel an anti-insurgent sentiment, so they muted the impact of what might have been a very powerful photo.


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