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Pictures of Boston

by on April 18, 2013

All we have seen across the news the past few days are pictures from the Boston attacks, and like we have mentioned in class, there are plenty more not being shown. But is it right not to show them?

When it happened, I was on a Boston.com live blog, as well as multiple other news sites. I remember seeing the un-cropped version of the picture of the guy with no legs being wheeled away from the wreckage right around the time it happened, but can’t seem to find it again. Versions of the picture now tend to be cropped, or have the areas where his legs are wounded blurred. This is the cropped and blurred version from the NY Daily News.   

I have to agree with the choice to not run that picture as it was. It was gruesome, it was gross, and it was too close to home for me, and I generally have a pretty strong stomach about this kind of thing.

I know there have been stories about the “guy in the cowboy” hat and all he did, which is great, and I want his story to be told. I’m not against the publication of the image, just against the publication of it in its original version which I saw.

Conflict happens all the time, and there will always be people wounded, but that doesn’t mean gruesome images it should be displayed on the front page or as top photo for a web page. I’m not against there being hard or grievous images put in publication, just against there being images of a runner with both his legs blown off. And most publications follow these guidelines.

And I think there is a line that is crossed. There are plenty of shots with blood in them, or wounded people, but the difference is, you don’t see the parts of them that are supposed to remain inside their bodies. Take this shot for example.

Yes, it’s bloody, yes it shows there was violence, and those with a weak stomach still probably shouldn’t click the link, but it’s also censored in the way that you can’t see the bones and ligaments of a wounded body. I feel a picture like this should run, because it doesn’t cross that “gross” line to me, and it shows what appear to be two random people, one seemingly a spectator and one a runner, helping a third and wounded person. It shows courage, compassion and resilience to violence without showing the grotesque aspects of a serious injury.

I would also like to point out that this is not the photographer’s job, but the editor’s job back in the office. A photographer will capture all they can, to try to encompass the entire scene in still imagery. They’re worrying about composition, story telling and sometimes not getting hurt themselves, so their decision to shoot it all is something that is there own. It is up to the editors, who call the shots, to be the people to decide what runs, and/or how much of what runs.

In the end, people will take these pictures, because when an event like this happens, you photograph it all. However, the gruesome, uncut pictures don’t belong on the front page. If people really want a look at them, make them available, but let us know first. Give us some warning. Maybe I’m just sensitive, because I’m a climber and have seen friends with some bad injuries, or because I’ve spent plenty of time in Boston and could have passed that guy on the street, but I honestly wish I hadn’t seen the guys’ bone sticking out of his leg.

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One Comment
  1. I think photos are necessary to tell the gruesome story, but I think if something is truly graphically disturbing, then news sites should put some sort of warning on the photos. I have seen several news sites do this. However, as you mentioned, more often than not, news organizations will print images without any discretion warning. I believe this is simply an issue of poor photojournalism. While it is easy to photograph graphic content during a terrorist attack. However, the same story can be told by choosing to shoot a photograph of something that is much less disturbing- for example, the audience’s reaction or police rushing towards the scene, or perhaps the runners who continued running to a hospital to donate blood to victims. Instead, I saw photos of a blood-covered scene where the bomb had gone off, or a person with a seriously injured leg that needed amputation. Even a child laying lifeless on the pavement near the scene- all of these images are too disturbing for the public to digest, and while text can only paint the picture of a story to some degree, it is vitally important that articles that are published with photos are sought out to be appropriate for the public and secure the safety of those involved with anyone in the photo.

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