Freelance Fieldtrip: The Story of Zaatari and Hashisho

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Aug 09, 2006 1:14 AM

Let's follow photographers Mohammed Zaatari (AP) and Ali Hashisho (Reuters) through their day.

To a funeral in Ghaziyeh:

A Lebanese mourner holds a copy of the Quran, Islam's holy book, in front of wrapped bodies of civilians during a mass funeral at the southern town of Ghaziyeh, near the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006, after they were killed when Israeli airstrikes flattened three buildings Monday killing fifteen people. Israeli airstrikes hit near a funeral procession in south Lebanon on Tuesday, sending some of the 1,500 mourners running in panic and killing at least 13 people in nearby buildings, witnesses, hospital officials and the town's mayor said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)AP - Tue Aug 8, 1:46 PM ET

A relative who lost family members in Monday's Israeli air strike prays over their bodies before the burial ceremony in Ghaziyeh village, south Lebanon, August 8, 2006. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho (LEBANON)Reuters - Tue Aug 8, 12:34 PM ET

Outside to a mass funeral march:

Two women mourn during the mass funeral of Lebanese civilians at the southern town of Ghaziyeh, near the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006, after they were killed when Israeli airstrikes flattened three buildings Monday killing fifteen people. Israeli airstrikes hit near a funeral procession in south Lebanon on Tuesday, sending some of the 1,500 mourners running in panic and killing at least 13 people in nearby buildings, witnesses, hospital officials and the town's mayor said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)AP - Tue Aug 8, 1:25 PM ET

A woman, who lost family members in Monday's Israeli air strike, is comforted by a relative during a funeral ceremony in Ghaziyeh village, south Lebanon, August 8, 2006. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho (LEBANON) Reuters - Tue Aug 8, 12:21 PM ET

Two women mourn during a mass funeral of Lebanese citizens at the southern town of Ghaziyeh, near the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2006, after they were killed when Israeli airstrikes flattened three buildings Monday killing fifteen people. Israeli airstrikes hit near a funeral procession in Ghaziyeh on Tuesday, sending 1,500 mourners wailing through the streets and killing at least six people in nearby buildings, witnesses and the town's mayor said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)AP - Tue Aug 8, 1:15 PM ET

Women, who lost family members in Monday's Israeli air strike, cry during a funeral ceremony in Ghaziyeh village, south Lebanon, August 8, 2006. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho (LEBANON) Reuters - Tue Aug 8, 12:39 PM ET

Now, it is not unethical for these two photographers to be in the same place at the same time. These are newsworthy events and they're both newsgatherers. It's not unethical that they got similar shots at the events. In my experience, most photographers know what's gonna make a good shot, and they all end up shooting from the same place.

What bothers me about these pictures is what they show about news photography in general. And that's this-- photographers are often much more a part of the story than they let on. As in the case of Michelle's illustration, they can crop themselves out of the news when, sometimes, they're the very reason the news in happening in that place at that time.

The fact that two photographers from two international news services were hanging over the shoulder of one man reading a Koran in what appears to be a small, intimate setting leads me to believe they may have been much more intrusive than the picture intimates. The fact that the same two guys are hovering over the same two sets of mourning women in what appear to be intimate moments makes me think maybe none of the moments were as intimate as we're being led to believe.

A similar thing used to happen when I worked for the newspaper all the time. I took my own pictures since it was a small shop. In journalism school, we're taught to keep ourselves out of the story. Well, what if you're a part of the story? Sometimes, I would go to cover what I thought was an event-- an unveiling of a plaque or some such-- and it would turn out it was held just for me, just so that I could come take a picture and write the story. There was no audience but me, the reporter/photographer. If I had not been there, the "story" would never have happened.

Doesn't that make me part of the story, and don't I have an obligation to communicate that to readers? I always tried to, though getting that past an editor is a hard sell.

In cases like the above three pictures, it's altogether possible that Zaatari and Hashisho weren't the only two photographers on the scene. There could well have been a gaggle. And, when a small, intimate funeral service or a moment of mourning is covered by a gaggle of international photographers, it's no longer exactly the intimate moment you see when you get to see only one side of the camera.

If someone saw an uncropped version of this picture, and it happened to have a gaggle of photographers leaning and straining and switching lenses nearly in the laps of these grieving women, don't you think the average news consumer's basic perception of the event taking place might be colored just a little bit? Try this one on for size:

A pious, grieving mother shares an intimate moment with those who care about her. Right? Nope.

Yeah, that's a different story than the one the photographers were giving us.

This kind of thing is the least of our concerns, judging by all the stuff everyone's turning up tonight. It's not fabrication, and who knows if it's staged, but it's not exactly what the photographers would have us believe. What we need is news photographer photographers. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Rusty Shackleford finds that Adnan Hajj and another guy were often in the same place at the same time, but some of those photos are more suspicious than these-- some of them identical. Freelance fieldtrips. Must be a thing. Or, they're the same guy. Yikes.

Like I said, news photographer photographers. Then we'd know what's going on.

Allah doesn't want to believe what Rusty's found. Tell me about it.

Michelle has more on this at the bottom of her big round-up.

And, speaking of Rusty, he's a columnist on Townhall today! He's got the lowdown on how all this photography analysis got started, in case you're behind.

UPDATE: I knew I had seen this book before, and I couldn't place it. Luckily, See Dubya found it for me. That'd be a great read right about now.