Reading The Pictures: <em>Qana Was Not Staged</em>

Much is culturally lost -- not to mention, politically filtered -- in transit from East to West.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.


Yesterday, Tim Fadek -- a long time freelance photographer, and a contributer to my regular blog, BAGnewsNotes -- forwarded me this photo he took in Qana following the now infamous and deadly air strike, the documentation of which has been the source of so much skepticism. Having received the NPPA award for Best Still Photography in International News in 2005 for his coverage of the uprising in Haiti, Tim is recognized as one of the most respected photojournalists in his field.

Fadek, along with many of his colleagues covering the war in Lebanon, have become increasingly concerned over allegations fomenting in the States (particularly in the right wing 'sphere) about war photos being staged or "stage managed." He has emphasized to me (as you can see in my post detailing Tim's eye witness description of the scene in Qana) that much is culturally lost -- not to mention, politically filtered -- in transit from East to West.

Overall, Tim was interested in communicating this statement written by fellow photojournalist, Thorne Anderson (appearing in a discussion thread on Lightstalkers, a site largely dedicated to professional photographers) about the recent barrage of charges and assertions (some acknowledged, others explained, many others simply alleged) about "visual integrity," and how to understand the Qana photos. Anderson writes:

Much of the debate about "staging" in Qana can be deflated a good deal by an appreciation of cultural differences. Among many Middle Eastern Muslims the display of the dead is very much a ritual part of dealing with death. Palestinian funeral parades, with or without media present, are a demonstration of this. While the display of the dead may appear callous and disrespectful to many western eyes, it is likely interpreted as a form of honor among those who actually display the dead - an attempt to give meaning to something senseless.

Photographing the display is not necessarily deceiptful, but rather an honest record of the extraordinary ways people react in these terrible circumstances. And a rescueworker displaying a body does not a Media Mogul the rescue worker make. He/She is still a rescue worker. Though the caption for pictures from that portion of the event should read "Rescue workers display the body of..." rather than "Rescue workers remove the body of..."

Furthermore, the sporadic display of bodies at a scene like that shouldn't allow us to dismiss the event as merely a salvo in the "media war" being waged by "Hizbollah and their jihadi friends" in the "mainstream apologist media." And none of this changes the essential, and most important fact that a group of photographers put themselves at great risk to show the result of an Israeli air strike on an apartment building that left 28 people - among them 16 children - dead.

I took a gut wrenching tour of LGF [Little Green Footballs] and a couple of other blogs that are super-hyping the "staging" issue to an audience of hundreds of thousands in what is a transparent and in some cases explicit attempt to deny the simple fact that an Israeli airstrike killed 16 children in Qana. That assault on the essential truth is a far more reprehensible act of overt media warfare (if there is such a thing) than any angry display of a dead body in the immediate aftermath of an airstrike. Reminds me of those who deny the Holocaust for political purposes.

-- Thorne Anderson August 11, 2006.

For more of the visual (including Tim Fadek's account of the aftermath of the Qana airstrike), visit

(image: Tim Fadek/Polaris. July 30, 2006. Qana, Lebanon. Used by permission. Please seek permission before republication.)

Go To Homepage

Before You Go

Popular in the Community