Thursday, March 12, 2009

WHNPA's Picture Story Award

I've just learned that The Washington Post photographer Andrea Bruce was named 2009 Photographer of the Year by the White House News Photographers Association for her recently published feature on female circumcision in Iraqi Kurdistan.

I already expressed my shock at The Washington Post's decision to publish Bruce's photographs showing the face of the young girl being circumcised. I wrote this:

"On the other hand, I'm shocked that The Washington Post editors decided not to preserve Sheelan's privacy and dignity. Here's a 7 year old whose mutilation, a terribly humiliating and painful experience, is now seen on the internet. Would the editors be so cavalier in invading the privacy of a 7 year old in New York City for instance?...or is it because Sheelan and her mother are impoverished Kurds that they ignored their basic rights??"

I wholeheartedly support any effort to eradicate this barbaric tradition, but showing Sheelan's face in Bruce's photographs is what outrages me. By all means, publish the feature to enlist support against the practice, but grant this young girl the same dignity as we would to someone in the United States or Europe. Or is it just cheap sensationalism at the expense of Kurds who don't know any better?

Perhaps some will argue that the White House News Photographers Association chose well, and I certainly have no quarrel with Bruce's talent, but I wonder if its members would have voted the same way had these photographs been of their own daughters? But we'll never know, will we?

In the meantime, we remain tone deaf and naively wonder why we are disliked by so many.

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