Bits and Pieces

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Photojournalist Complicit?

This is the picture taken by an AP photographer on Sunday, during the attack by Iraqi insurgents that resulted in the death of 3 Iraqi election workers. Wretchard at the Belmont Club wonders if it's just a little too convenient that the photographer happened to be there at the time. At first I dismissed the idea as ridiculous, but it may not be so outrageous a claim.

Look at the angle. The photographer (or, at least, the camera) was elevated a good few feet above the pickup truck in the background. This could be partially accounted for by the gradient of the road, but even taking that into account the photographer is obviously standing. This shot wasn't taken from a hiding place. It was taken from a standing position - maybe even from the bed of a pickup like the one in the picture. If you accept that premise, you have to ask how the photographer was able to take a shot from that angle during an attack from, in the words of AP journalist Abdul Hussein Al-Obeidi, about 30 armed insurgents, hurling hand grenades and firing guns.

They stopped a car carrying five employees of the Iraqi Electoral Commission and killed three of them. The other two escaped.

The two men in the photo - one lying face down with a gun at his head, the other kneeling on the right and facing away from the camera - were both killed. Look at the picture. The two men had been pulled from their car and thrown to the floor. That would have taken a matter of seconds. In addition, the cars in the background are still occupied.

Lets draw a picture of the attack. The attackers dart into the road and force a car carrying the election workers to stop. They pull the men from the car and force them to the ground. The drivers of the cars in the background see what's going on, jam the cars into reverse and fucking bolt back down the road while the men are shot.

But the cars aren't reversing. Let's make an assumption and conclude that the photo was taken very early in the attack. The drivers of the following cars hadn't had time to react to the situation and tear off. I think it's a reasonable assumption, but I could be wrong.

Assuming that I'm right, the photographer was present on the scene from the get-go. He didn't spot a distubance and come running from the distance, his camera bouncing on its strap. He was there, and he was waiting. Again, I'm jumping to conclusions. Sue me.

From what I can deduce it seems very likely that the photographer knew in advance that the attack would take place. He found himself a good spot for a photo, and he waited. I could be wrong. Maybe he was just extremely lucky. He just happened to be nearby. And maybe I'll wake up tomorrow with an extra inch.

Bill Quick suggests 'that this "reporter" should be arrested, thoroughly investigate, and if the facts warrant, charged with aiding and abetting the crimes of terrorism and murder.'

I know almost nothing about photography, but I have a couple of questions:

1. Does anyone know what type of lens was used to take this picture?

2. Would the average AP photographer usually have that lens attached on his camera for general use?

The reason I ask is that the picture looks fairly high-quality for a shot taken in a high-pressure situation. Just how long does it take a seasoned photographer to select the correct lens, attach it to his camera and focus? I'm just pulling this out of my ass, but I wonder if, in the absence of an actual interview with the photographer, we could draw any conclusions by studying the photo.
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