Wednesday, 18 August 2010

TIME: Soldiers' Tattoos In Afghanistan

Photo © Mauricio Lima /AFP/Getty Images-All Rights Reserved

It's really time to leave Afghanistan when magazines start publishing inconsequential and silly photo essays as the one just featured by TIME's website. It's titled Soldiers' Tattoos in Marjah, and is by Mauricio Lima.

The photo essay shows about 10 images of US soldiers showing off tattoos of various illustrations, religious messages and excerpts from the Bible amongst others. The one above is of Lance Corporal Daniel Weber, and the caption reads as follows: "The Arabic inscription on Weber's bicep translates to "unfortunate soldier."

No, it doesn't. It reads "Al Nafs Al Mahzouza", which means "the fortunate soul" in English. So quite different in its intent. If Weber wanted the tattoo to read "unfortunate soldier", he may want to go back to the parlor that did this, and ask for his money back. Although Arabic is not one of Afghanistan's languages, the script is nicely done.

This captioning error is made either by some clueless soul (a summer intern?) at TIME Magazine, or through careless translation in Marjah. In this particular case, it's an irrelevant mistake....but I shudder to think how much important information is misunderstood or even lost through careless translation by American or Afghanistan individuals.

Why did I bother to mention it here? Well, a photo essay about soldiers' tattoos appears in a national and international magazine, and we still wonder why photojournalism is where it is today? Aren't there more interesting stories in Marjah?

Update: My thanks to Ciara Leeming who just messaged me saying that the caption was changed a few moments ago to this: The Arabic inscription on Weber's bicep translates to "lucky self."

It's still inaccurate, but much closer than the original. Do the TIME staffers read my blog?