Press Photos Fail to Show True Picture of War

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By: Greg Mitchell

A remarkable survey by the Los Angeles Times of six leading newspapers and two newsmagazines during a recent six-month period found almost no pictures from Iraq of Americans killed in action. And the publications ran only 44 photos of the wounded.

“Many photographers and editors believe they are delivering Americans an incomplete portrait of the violence that has killed 1,797 U.S. service members and their West allies and wounded 12,516 Americans,” the Times’ James Rainey concluded.

Pim Van Hemmen, assistant managing editor for photography at The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., told Rainey, “We in the news business are not doing a very good job of showing our readers what has really happened over there.”

The Times survey covered the period from Sept. 1, 2004, until Feb. 28, 2005. During that time, 559 Americans and Western allies died, but readers of the L.A. Times, The New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did not see a single photo of a dead U.S. serviceman. Nor did readers of Time and Newsweek.

The Seattle Times carried a photo three days before Christmas of a dead U.S. soldier, killed in the mess hall bombing, but his body was covered.

The L.A. Times and New York Times each carried 10 photos of the wounded, with the other six publications combined for a total of 24. That means that for six months, in eight top publications, only 44 such pictures appeared — when thousands were injured.

“I feel we still aren’t seeing the kind of pictures we need to see to tell the American people about this war and the costs of the war,” Steve Stroud, deputy director of photography at the Los Angeles Times told Rainey.

The publications have run many photos of Iraqi victims, with 55 pictures of the dead and wounded appearing in The New York Times in that same period, for example.

But the L.A. Times survey also found that publications are much more likely to publish photos of “grieving” — scenes captured at funderals, memorials, and hospitals. The Washington Post, for example, published no photos of dead Americans, only six of the wounded, but 25 of “grieving.”

“There can be horrible images, but war is horrible and we need to understand that,” Chris Hondros, a veteran war photographer, told Rainey. “I think if we are going to start a war, we ought to be willing to show the consequences of that war.”

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