Controversial picture: first look

October 27, 2009

Walski, Brian (2003). Front Page Image, Los Angeles Times – March 31st 2003 (original caption unknown)

Walski, Brian (2003). Front Page Image, Los Angeles Times - March 31st 2003 (original caption unknown)

Sourced from: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/photo/chi-080710-photo-fakes-photogallery,0,4231467.photogallery?index=chi-fake_walski20080710142803

This photograph was taken by Brian Walski in 2003, and published on the front page of the Los Angeles Times on the 31st of March 2003.

This particular photo was taken from the Chicago Tribune website and, according to the URL, from a page dealing with fake photographs. We will look into that at a later point.

To start off, let us analyse this picture directly. In the foreground we can see a white British soldier in an active position, holding a rifle in his right hand and stretching his left hand out in a directive manner. He seems to be saying or shouting something. This person is the center of attention. His head is seemingly turned towards a group of civilians of Semitic origin, more specifically towards a man in the center, the only civilian standing up in the picture. Our focus now shifts to this man. He seems to be in his thirties or forties and is holding a child in his arms. He is slightly hunched as if being afraid or in discomfort, and is  looking at, and walking towards, the soldier imploringly. The rest of the picture is composed of a crowd of seated people, a sandy ground and a grey overcast sky.

Judging from this photograph, we can assume that the scene takes place in a Middle-Eastern country and that the photo was taken in the context of a war. The soldier seems to be gesturing at the man with the child, telling him to sit down.

This question now arises: Where and in what context was this photograph taken?

The photograph certainly looks genuine, but if we now take a closer look we can notice one major fault: some faces in the background seem to appear twice (on either side of the soldier’s legs). Furthermore, we can take into consideration the fact the soldier’s line of vision doesn’t appear to be perfectly aimed at the man in the center. He might not in fact be talking to that specific person.

We can raise a few key questions: Is this picture a fake? If so, what was the photographer’s motive for creating it? What would the consequences of such an action be?

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