This last week the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal all used similar images on their front pages to report the bombing of a shiite Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The attack which together with a second bombing made it one of the bloodiest day in the 10 years of War, was claimed by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militants from Pakistan.
The days events were dramatic and terrifying, for picture editors trying to mediate this in picture form to readers is a difficult and sometimes impossible job. Especially when you have to balance the need for showing the most descriptive images and causing distress to those unsuspecting browsers of the mornings newsstands.
In an interview for a Washington Post Blog, the Editors each laid out their reasonings for use of such similar and graphic images.
However the most telling is their reasons for leaving certain aspects of the images out, Like the baby in yellow. Which is visible in the images used by the NYT and WaPo even if the body is slightly obscured by the WaPo’s editing.
Jack Van Antwerp from the Journal explains his crop saying: “We have a very high sensitivity at the journal to scenes of death and blood. We chose to make the photo as viewable as possible yet still be true to the intention of the moment.”
However Michele McNally of the Times verifies her use of the wider crop saying: “I feel like this is a turning point, sectarian violence in an area that never had such. I don’t feel it was gratuitous – Suicide bombs kill men, women and children.”
Speaking generally of the Posts choice, Michel Ducille said: “When there is a dramatic photograph from what i consider a very significant news situation, I think we have an obligation to give a true representation of the event. This scene showed the lifeless bodies of children and the anguished faces of those who lived through the ordeal.”
When during the first Gulf war the Guardian chose to put a picture of a torched body on Pg 2 and 3 there were many complaints sent to the papers picture editor Roger Tooth, who said in a talk at Staffordshire University, that to not show the picture was to deny the reality of war from the public.