Rewind: The image of an officer shooting a Viet Cong at the height of the Vietnam war by Eddie Adams; the dead child in the Bhopal gas tragedy by Raghu Rai; ‘the napalm girl’ during the Vietnam war by Nick Ut; the vulture and child photo by Kevin Carter, the exhausted US soldier in Afghanistan by Tim Hetherington.
These and many, many more photographs have made a hard-hitting impact on the course of history in their time. The first image, it is said, brought about the end of the Vietnam war — such is the impact of a photograph, a defining image and a decisive moment as Bresson would call it.
On Wednesday, the body of three year old Syrian migrant child Alyan Kurdi was found washed ashore on a Turkish beach after he and his family drowned while taking a dilapidated small boat to reach Greece to escape the deadly conflict. Immediately, the world sat up and reacted with horror.
Once again, the Image brought the world to its knees with an enormous outburst of anger and great deal of reflection over the migrant crisis and the conflict in Syria. The power of an image once again defined the moment in history.
Of the thousands of images that are clicked every day from Syria, why would it take five years for a photograph of a dead young child to finally bring about some hope? Simply, imagery is a process of invocation. In photo-journalism, photographers go out on documenting assignments. Within a conflict situation, everything at some point of time reaches the pinnacle, the point of outburst and therein lies that image which defines the circumstances.
This is the point where a photographer’s image, channelizes the world, its thoughts and opinions, its anger — and its hope — an outburst that brings about change.
This time, the outburst has made the world to rethink the current humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and Europe. The single photograph of Aylan Kurdi, has given voice to all the other children, all the other stories of sadness and human tragedy, has validated each and every other photograph taken of the crisis, has invoked everything that has been forgotten or omitted in the last five years of the conflict.
The power of one image has once again proved that there is still hope.
Tashi Tobgyal is a photographer with The Indian Express.
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