Saturday 16 December 2017

David Conachy: Images that can make victims' screams heard around the world

There is a normal human reaction to avert our eyes when confronted with horror but it is the media's task to reflect reality, writes David Conachy

Aylan Kurdi lies dead on the beach this week
Aylan Kurdi lies dead on the beach this week

David Conachy

I was on the border between Israel and Gaza last Wednesday, in a place called Erez. I was sitting in a tin hut, a temporary holding room, as I waited for the Hamas border guards to stamp my passport. They had wifi in the hut. So I whipped out my iPhone and went online.

Naturally I follow a lot of fellow-photographers on Twitter. My timeline was packed with comments about a new photograph from the ongoing international refugee crisis. I tapped a link to the photo. When it came up, I froze. I had a physical reaction in my gut. It stopped me in my tracks. I was seeing it with my eyes but feeling it like a punch to the stomach.

I was in a conflict zone but I forgot where I was. I had come through the Israeli checkpoint. I'd crossed over a kilometre of dusty no-man's land. It was roasting hot. There were soldiers everywhere. But that photograph took me away from it all. I sat and stared at it for several seconds. I knew immediately that this was the one: this was the image that would resonate around the world. This was the image that would symbolise the humanitarian catastrophe of 2015. This is the defining picture of the great human exodus that is unfolding right now across the Middle East, northern Africa and parts of Asia.

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