Sunday, 20 January 2013

Some of the most "Controversial Photos" in recent history

R. Umar Abbasi’s shot of Ki Suk Han, as he was about to be struck and killed by an oncoming train, is arguably one of the most controversial photographs in recent memory. The subsequent “DOOMED” cover shot in the New York Post in early December was taken by the photographer who says he was really trying to warn the train conductor with the flash of his camera. Was R. Umar Abbasi just being single out because his image was published?… maybe, maybe not… But what of the others who swarmed around the body for their own cell phone pic that didn't get published? Is there a clear ethical line when it comes to photojournalism and what is the responsibility of a publisher?


A controversy erupted when the TIME issue on “attachment parenting” featured the 26-year-old Jamie Lynne Grumet and her three-year-old son breastfeeding on the cover. The debate was whether it was tasteful, or even criminal.  My opinion aside… but shouldn’t people have gotten focused more on the actual topic of attachment parenting rather than so hung up on the image itself and its tangent censorship dilemma?

On July 22, 1975, photograph Stanley J. Forman working for the Boston Herald American newspaper when a police scanner picked up an emergency: "Fire on Marlborough Street!"

After he climbed on a fire truck, Forman shot the picture of a young woman, Diana Bryant, and a very young girl, Tiare Jones when they fell helplessly. The photo coverage from the tragic event garnered Stanley Forman a Pulitzer Prize. But more important, his work paved the way for Boston and other states to mandate tougher fire safety codes.

Meanwhile, that photo by Stanley Forman, doing the job that he did very well in the 70s (and still does today with a television camera) stirred somewhat of an outrage. He said there was not a single thing he could have done to save them.

Something like this happens in a split second and only those that have been witness to tragedy can understand how quickly things can go wrong. Those who second guess a situation like this are watching WAY too much television and are living a fantasy life. It's not the messenger's fault the woman died. The fact is that Stanley Forman's photographs of this incident probably single handedly changed many fire codes in Boston saving numerous lives.

Mr. Forman did not intend to take this picture. He was taking photographs of what he thought was going to be firemen saving the woman and her Godchild. Suddenly, the situation worsened and the fire escape fell. Plunging the two to the ground.

Mr. Forman was not on the ground and could not have leaned over far enough or fast enough to save either of them. He just happened to be taking pictures and caught the fall.

While this is the most iconic of the bunch, this is only one of a series of shots that Forman took - IIRC it is about 8th or a series of 10 pictures starting with the fireman trying to reach them and ending with the pair striking the ground.


South African photojournalist, Kevin Carter was blasted in 1993 for not helping the starving toddler he photographed being eyed by a vulture in Sudan.

The photo went viral and comments flew, condemning Carter… the result, Carter committed suicide in 1994, shortly after receiving a Pulitzer Prize for the photo.

Can you think of other controversial photos taken in recent memory?