Thursday, 26 March 2009

POV: And The Outrage Continues

The onward march of the tone-deaf myopic lemmings continues!

The National Press Photographers Association has announced that Andrea Bruce of the Washington Post has been awarded second place in the International News Story with her photo essay on a young girl in Kurdistan being circumcised.

Readers of this blog will recall reading the reasons for my revulsion at this photo essay, which I expressed here and here.

The NPAA's contest judges now join The Washington Post editors (who published the photo essay on December 28, 2008), and the White House News Photographers Association (who awarded it a prize), in publishing Andrea Bruce’s photographs of a Kurdish girl having part of her clitoris cut off. The moral myopia of these organizations is just breathtaking. Sheelan's right to privacy and her dignity have been cavalierly shrugged off by a bunch of provincial editors, judges and their assistants....or does Sheelan and her mother have no right to privacy because they are impoverished Kurds and don't know better? Isn't the right to privacy and dignity a basic human right deserved by the wealthy and the poor, irrespective of creed, race, national origin and age?

I realize Andrea Bruce needs to earn a living, but she's a talented and experienced photographer and could've used simple photographic techniques to preserve Sheelan's privacy, while still conveying the atrocity of this ignoble practice. The editors of the Washington Post didn't even think of hiding the poor girl's name...they published it in full. They would have never published these photographs if the girl lived in Kansas, or Ohio, or California...or Europe, or wherever else there was a legal system capable of redressing this obscene trespassing of privacy. This child is only 7 years old and her image and name are made public...on the web?

In the (unlikely, in my opinion) event that the Washington Post had written permission from the girl's family to publicly show these photographs, it should mention this at the start of the feature...but it hasn't. By all means, publish this photo essay in an effort to publicize the abhorrent practice, and to arouse the public's awareness of it...but do it in such a way that protects the dignity of the innocent victim, and ensures her privacy.

I'm far from being alone in being revolted by this photo essay. Benjamin Chesterton, who worked for the BBC, has written an eloquent and powerful post on his blog also criticizing it, and it can be read here. I also received numerous emails (mostly from women) supporting my stance, and the posts linked to above receive the most traffic of any of my posts.

We naively wonder why we are disliked by so many. Let us treat and respect others as we treat and respect ourselves...that'll help.

Update: The APhotoADay blog has picked on Benjamin Chesterton's post, and posted its Furthering The Abuse.