Photojournalism that matters: from “Napalm Girl” to drowned immigrants

Photo credit: Kim Phuc, AP photographer

Many of us remember this moment of desperation, captured in a photo from 1972 that “went viral” before “viral” as term or Facebook or YouTube was even around: It shows nine-year-old Kim Phuc, also known as the “Napalm Girl.” As the PBS website recalls: “It’s a hard image to forget. A young girl, naked, runs screaming toward the camera in agony after a napalm attack incinerated her village, her clothes, and then her skin.”

Associated Press photographer Nick Ut’s image became the epitome for illustrating the terror of war. More details here.

Photo: Julia Le Duc, Mexican newspaper La Jornada 

This week, we were introduced to another powerful photo. We subscribe to The New York Times and it was “above the fold” on the front page — hard to miss as I retrieved the newspaper at the crack of dawn from the front lawn. (I’m an early riser). As The Times described: “Photo of drowned migrants captures pathos of those who risk it all.”

“The portrait of desperation was captured on Monday by the journalist Julia Le Duc, in the hours after Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez died with his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, as they tried to cross from Mexico to the United States.

“The image represents a poignant distillation of the perilous journey migrants face on their passage north to the United States, and the tragic consequences that often go unseen in the loud and caustic debate over border policy.”

Photojournalism like this can be a game changer. Ut’s photo helped change the Vietnam War. Watch the video report here.

I cringed this morning when I saw the photo of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, who had died with his 23-month-old daughter .

But as we discussed it at the breakfast table, Shannon reminded me that it also could be a game changer when it comes to addressing the immigration issue. I hope she is right.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

4 thoughts on “Photojournalism that matters: from “Napalm Girl” to drowned immigrants”

  1. ‘We’ haven’t lost our souls, but the party of trump and the idiots who support him have. The rhetoric of hate they spew is not unlike that which occurred in pre WWII Germany. People need to wake up to that and cast off the “it can’t happen here’ attitude. It can and is happening.

    “First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist

    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist

    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist

    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew

    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me

    Substitute muslims and immigrants for the word “Jews” and you have the Republican party platform.

  2. And we have a couple more photos from the G20 today. One photo is of the G20 members, Trump in the middle of MBS and Erdogan. Of all the members he could have stood next to he chose those butchers. Erdogan has more journalists in Turkish jails than any other country has in their prisons. Turkey sentenced a 24 year old Kurdish woman to eleven years in prison, her crime was singing Kurdish songs to school children while wearing traditional Kurdish clothes.
    MBS needs no explanation of why Trump should have stayed away from him. I’m surprised Trump didn’t high five MBS at this mornings gathering at the G20.
    If Democrats can’t make Trump wear those photos around his political neck then they are sleeping.

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