The images that came out of the suicide bombing of a Shiite mosque in Kabul on Tuesday were graphic, showing dozens of people killed. One scene in particular stood out from the rest. At the center a woman in green was standing, surrounded by the injured and dead, including several children and a baby.
Photos of the scene appeared today on the front pages of The Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, though each publication chose a slightly different image:
We spoke to Post visuals editor David Griffin, director of photography Michel Ducille, and deputy director of photography Sonya Doctorian about the Post’s photo choices, as well as NYT photo editor Michele McNally and deputy photo editor Meaghan Looram, and Wall Street Journal director of photography Jack Van Antwerp about their choices.
Q. Why did you choose the photo you did?
Griffin, The Post: We were attracted to this image primarily due to the woman on the left. You can see her face a little more and what she’s going through. And there is more of a sense of what’s going on in the background.
Ducille, The Post: [I] argued that we should keep the bodies in the frame. When there is a dramatic photograph from what I consider a very significant news situation, I think we have an obligation to give a true representation of the event. This scene showed the lifeless bodies of children and the anguished faces of those who lived through the ordeal.
McNally, NYT: We knew it was a powerful sequence but we actually pulled them out and looked at them very closely, first on the scene and then to size. You spent a long time looking through each part of that photo, foreground, mid ground, and back ground.
Looram, NYT: The composition of what we chose felt stronger to both of us. We found it notable in the frame we chose that it was obvious to the viewer that some of the people had survived.
Van Antwerp, WSJ: It’s a very powerful moment that does what you dream every day of happening – which is a photograph that tells the whole story. Inside the paper we have a photo of the moment of the explosion, but that didn’t quite nail it. This photo of this woman was an incredibly excrutiating picture. But for anyone who had the opportunity to look at all the photos filed, this was an absolutey PG photo compared to the others.
Q. The NYT chose to include the baby in yellow who is covered in blood, but The Post almost entirely cropped the baby out, and the WSJ didn’t show the baby at all. Why?
Griffin, The Post: The baby in the foreground I think was a step just a little too far, given that this is a paper that goes out to families. We spent a lot of time talking about that portion of the photograph. We didn’t want to crop in tight enough to lose the overall horror of the scene.
Van Antwerp, WSJ: By its very nature a crop is intentional, so we absolutely intentionally chose to do it here. The intention was to show the power of the moment without having to gratuitously show a lot of carnage and death on page 1. We have a very high sensitivy at The Journal to scenes of death and blood. We chose to make the photo as viewable as possible yet still be true to the intention of the moment.
Looram, NYT: It was difficult to choose because that is very upsetting and tragic. The one thing that was very particular about this incident is it was an attack made on a national holiday, and the person responsible wanted to make sure all members of Shia society were affected by this.
McNally, NYT: Totally agree. I feel like this is a turning point, sectarian violence in an area that never had such. I don’t feel that it was gratuituous — suicide bombs kill men, women and children.
Q. The WSJ and the NYT both show the woman at the center in green screaming, but in The Post, she has a different expression. Why did you choose that expression?
Griffin, The Post: They are both amazing photographs. But I, and this is a personal feeling, have a proclivity against screaming. I find it to be a little bit of a cliche. And I find it much more intriguing to find people when they are just off that peak feeling. [In the photo we chose], the woman in green has a little more presence. But I don’t think there was a wrong decision here.
McNally, NYT: That was the moment, she was in the middle of the scream. Raising the arms to me seemed more like the end of it.
Doctorian, The Post: We’ve had to see many bombing photographs from Afghanistan, but the girl’s pain in this scene stopped me. It spoke on a universal level to the horror of war.
Watch a video of the year 2011 through the Post’s front pages here.
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