It was one of the most iconic photos taken during the second world war…
A Chinese baby crying in a bombed out railway station in Shanghai that had just been attacked by Japanese fighter-bombers on August 28, 1937.
It was also, probably, staged.
Does it matter?
This pictures always opens up debate in my mind. While both sides of that cavernous interior agree that the bombing of non-combatants is a heinous, war crime… being duped into an emotional response gets my hackles up every time.
Is it one of those, ‘do the ends justify the means’ situations we as a society sometimes like to bandy about. Should the world have be outraged in the 1930’s as to what was happening in China? In my opinion absolutely! Should a staged picture be used to channel our emotions towards outrage? Suddenly I’m less sure.
If I roleplay the situation in my mind, it goes something like this.
Look, no one in the west gives a @#$% about whats happening here, lets put this injured baby on the edge of the platform, you can you publish it in your western newspapers and maybe we can make something happen…
Given this option, what would I have done? I probably would have taken the photo. I would have told the lie.
Interesting, child injuries and deaths don’t spur us to action anymore.
I have no idea why some geographic locales on planet earth garner more empathy than other places. Syria… Rwanda… Myanmar… these are not places we rush off to help. Maybe we’ll send some ‘thoughts and prayers’ and sign some form of social media petition or something.
(I obviously include myself in these broad aspersions). I don’t really care about these places. I tell myself I have a limited supply of empathy and that I’d prefer to ‘fix’ something closer to home.
And maybe that’s true. Although maybe I’m just ‘staging’.