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March 10, 2005

Your Turn: Two For One, And One For All

For my money, the visual story of the week involved the duel (or dueling) pro-democracy demonstrations in Beirut. 

The first demonstration (consisting of more upwardly-mobile Anti-Syrian Christians, Druse and Sunni) had been ongoing, and was the subject of my post, Betty Boop Takes Lebanon (link).  The pro-Syrian demonstration, sponsored by Hizbollah on Tuesday, consisted of primarily poor to middle class religious Shiites, and was larger than the other demonstration many times over.

What I wanted to do was focus on the NYT’s photographic coverage of Tuesday’s events.  Given the points and observations many of you posted in response to “Betty,” I wanted to offer a few new questions to consider.

First though, let me give some background.

The Hizbollah-sponsored demonstration was the subject of both the lead story and lead photo on Tuesday’s front page (Pro-Syria Party in Beirut Holds a Huge Protestlink).  Although the version in the paper (also in color) was slightly cropped in width, this is the original AP shot.

Capt.Xhm11003081531.Mideast Lebanon Syria Xhm110

(Caption: “Demonstrators carried a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and an anti-American placard in Beirut, Lebanon, yesterday during a pro-Syrian rally organized by the militant Shiite group Hezbollah.”)

The story was continued on page A8, alongside a news analysis of the event (Lebanese Find a New Identity in Peaceful Protests — link).  As part of the continuation, two more images were included, both in black-and-white.

Beirut2

(Caption: “Lebanese women cheered while carrying a portrait of Syria’s president yesterday at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut. Far more women with head coverings attended than have been present at anti-Syrian rallies earlier.”)

Beirut1

(Caption: “A Lebanese Shiite Muslim journalist watched from a balcony as hundreds of thousands of pro-Syrian demonstrators gathered in Beirut.”)



So, here are my questions:

Do you think there is any significance to the fact that the front page crowd image is primarily male (I found two females in this version, but only one in the print edition) while the images on the continuation page both feature women?  (And, if you feel this division is just a natural reflection of split gender roles, do you think the Times was somehow trying to “make it up” by “giving the women” two pictures on the inside page — albeit black and white– to compensate for the larger color shot “the men got” on the front page?)

Considering that the media generally covered this event with large crowd shots, with some photos of women clustered together within the crowd, do you think this more abstract “Cheering Women” photo was basically motivated by creativity, or does the layout have more to say than that?  (Of course, I’d also be happy to hear your interpretation of this composition — as well as any visual analysis of the journalist on the balcony.)

Finally, do you think it’s unusual at all that the “Cheering Women” caption would specifically draw a comparison between the women at this demonstration and those at the more secular one?  And, how significant is it, anyway, that more women with head coverings attended the pro-Syrian demonstration than the anti-Syrian one?  Wouldn’t that be obvious?

(image 1: Hussein Malla/AP; image 2: Lynsey Addario for the New York Times; image 3: Norbert Schiller for the New York Times; image 4: Targets/Leo Burnett )

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