Monday, May 2, 2011

Head shot

No sooner is bin Laden shot dead than a photograph of his bullet ridden face goes viral. The photo below (right) is all over the web. Only one problem: it's an obvious fake, as Russell Boyce reports on the Reuters blog.


I suspect this image will have a long afterlife on the internet. Who knows where it originated? Perhaps it was simply a portrait left out too long in the rain? (Update 9:43 AM. Photo origin revealed)

Meanwhile we're still awaiting real photographs. The corpse has already been buried at sea, so the window for photographing it was quite limited. Nevertheless I feel pretty sure that some photos must be out there. I think their release will probably be very carefully controlled to keep from inflaming an already tense situation. But I suspect that eventually, perhaps soon, they will find their way into the public sphere.

Many strange currents at play here. The (out-dated?) reliance on photography as irrefutable documentation. The rush to fill the 24/7 news cycle. The head-on-a-spike mentality. And immortal internet ghosts...

12 comments:

John Goldsmith said...

A long life on the Internet, yes, but another life in print in Riyadh:

http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Most-Emailed-Photos-People-read-newspapers-cover-stories-Osama-bin-Laden-Riyadh-May/ss/1756/im:/110503/ids_photos_wl/r2359761895.jpg/;_ylt=Ah1jgXfoOkipakVs9KfJy3cDW7oF;_ylu=X3oDMTE3YzV2YjE4BHBvcwMzBHNlYwN5bl9zbGlkZXNob3cEc2xrA3Blb3BsZXJlYWR0aA--

Anonymous said...

I never know when you are being serious or not but doesn't posting this photo on here kind of contribute to the problem?

Blake Andrews said...

Hopefully I'm not adding to the problem by using the image. It would be nice to see the hoax publicized so it doesn't wind up in more newspapers.

It's now more than a day after bin Laden's death and I'm honestly surprised we haven't seen any real photos of his body. Where are the pix?

Blake Andrews said...

I am wondering about that Riyadh front page. If you're going to use a fake photograph, why would you run the original version side by side? It seems to invite suspicion. Strange.

jophilippe said...

"Where are the pix?"

Blake, it is possible / likely that the US gvt decided not to publish any photo right now to avoid what could be perceived as a provocation. And if so I think they are right because "image" is a very taboo thing for the Muslims. That hoax is ridiculous and unfortunate.

Blake Andrews said...

Gourevitch chimes in.

My take is that since the photos will inevitably find their way into the public eye, why not get ahead of the story and release them now?

The U.S. tried to suppress Abu Ghraib photos for months and that suppression then added fuel to the fire when they eventually became public. I think this could be a similar situation.

jophilippe said...

Blake,

I think Abu Ghraib and Bin laden death are totally different things. In the first case we have video footage/photos that unveils facts that were unknown. The photos preceded and became the facts in a sense. In the second case, we know the facts beforehand (unless those who believe it never happened), but we just do not have the photos. I think the timing is very important in this case and I agree with Gourevitch. If the pics are published in -say- 6 months, the echo will be much shorter. If they are published now it will affect/distort the "tonality" that the US gvt wanted the event to have.

Anonymous said...

Personally I have no desire to see the photos or even the video and I hope to avoid them. But I know that this will be impossible since they are going to be plastered everywhere.

Blake Andrews said...

We know the rough facts of what happened but as they say, a photo is worth 1,000 words. Maybe 100,000 in this case. For me, preserving "tonality" of the government's POV isn't really a concern. I don't think that's a proper standard for deciding on public release, either in this case or most situations generally.

nate said...

hey B- you're cool man, so heres this, but you prolly heard on it already- so in Boston, the news did this whole bit on how there's this whole clan of nasty sleaze-ball street photographers who take pictures up ladies skirts or whatever- imaged through edited vid that obviously has an agenda- hilarious actually- but just a case of tv news sensationalism that will pay the bills. heres Jacques Philippes take on it-http://jophilippe.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/there-is-no-special-way-a-photographer-should-look/
best blog blakeman, keep it on-

Anonymous said...

Thankfully Obama will not be showing the photos.

Tabatha said...

Nor will the photos be showing Osama.