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February 22, 2012

Visualizing Truth to Power: Putting Photos from Syria Together


Syrian Tanks Baba Amr 2 10 12

Baba Amr 2 11 12

When you look at photo galleries day after day, you see nuances and meanings that don’t necessarily stand out just by clicking through, especially when the photos lack context, save for brief captions, and might not even be in exact chronological order.

USA Today has a photo gallery on the crisis in Syria containing 106 photos, some taken as recent as six days ago, others dating back to last March. In light of the tragic killing of journalist Marie Colvin, photographer Rémi Ochlik and citizen-journalist and videographer, Rami al-Sayed in Homs yesterday, four photos from the gallery stand out for me now, respectively #26 and #24, #30 and #36. Grouped in pairs, I see each having something to say about the ingenuity and will of picturing truth to power.

In the first pair above, we see Syrian tanks on February 10th blocking the entrance to Baba Amr above an indoor scene, taken the next day, of families hiding in a shelter near the town. The fact we’re privy to such a domestic view, in spite of the military’s strangulation of the area, is physical evidence of this will to provide a window to the world.

Syrian tanks Idlib 2 9 12

The second pair of photos were taken on the same day, February 9th. In the first, we see a Syrian tank, obviously photographed from long range, patrolling Idlib. In the second, we see mourners in Idlib carry the body of a fighter killed by government forces. If you click and expand this photo, what you also vividly see is not just the citizen’s resolve  in the face of that military presence, but also evidence of the vigilant relationship they have to the camera.

If organized in a jumble, these images aren’t just random and they aren’t just artifacts. They are testaments and they bear witness.

(photo 1 & 2: AFP/Getty Images. photo 3:  Shaam News Network via APTN. photo 4: AP)

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