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Holocaust Photos

by on April 29, 2014

As yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoa in Hebrew), I thought it was relevant to bring up the issue of printing disturbing photos as part of news coverage. Now I know that the Holocaust is not a current event, but pictures still surface now and again, especially on a day that highlights its survivors and remembers those who were not so lucky. This brings up issues we discussed in class about photojournalism, such as what is appropriate to print when you have a plethora of horrible and unsettling pictures of human atrocities?

Most of the news outlets that I looked at yesterday showed pictures of survivors during remembrance ceremonies from all around the world. But when you are discussing a day of remembrance, isn’t it appropriate to publish pictures of the events that you are remembering? Would it be in poor taste to print pictures from the Holocaust? Or just completely show the growth since then?

I am not offering an answer to these questions, but rather posing it for everyone to think about. The issue of showing disturbing photos is not one that will soon go away, so I think we all ought to take it into consideration.


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  1. While reading this post, I couldn’t help but think about how 9/11 is covered. The images of the Twin Towers in flames, or of firefighters helping victims in the rubble trigger an array of emotions, and forces you to think about where you were and what you were doing when the attack happen. There are also have been pictures published of survivors, and of the memorial. I think that when covering issues like these, there should be a balance. I think that it is crucial to show pictures of how far we have come following a tragic event, but it is equally important to show pictures of the event to remind us that it happened.

  2. Looking at this ethical dilemma from the standpoint of the Holocaust is interesting because although not ancient history, the Holocaust is definitely much more distant from us than 9-11. Therefore, a reader’s reaction to photos from the Holocaust is likely to be different from a reaction than that towards horrific photos from more recent events – I think time lends a certain detachment from things. I myself am Jewish but tend to view the Holocaust through the lens of a “history lesson” vs. a “current event”, and would probably be less affected by Holocaust photos than photos from current/ongoing atrocities. Whether there’s a real ethical difference between the two I’m not sure, but I think it’s something to consider. e.g. – “how soon is too soon?”

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