Around the same time that I was researching the Abu Ghraib images on the internet, I saw a photograph in a Sunday newspaper showing what appeared to be a press photographer stabbing an Israeli soldier with a knife. In the same moment another armed soldier appears from around the side of the army vehicle, his weapon aimed at the man in the hi-vis press vest who was about to plunge the knife into his victim.
I found the image very disturbing but at the same time I was magnetically drawn to it. The obvious appeal in the first instance was a very base curiosity of wondering whether the victim on the ground survived the attack or whether the armed soldier managed to shoot before the knife completed its trajectory course. It felt almost filmic in its suspense and placed the idea of ‘the decisive moment’ to a much more elevated position of a ‘life and death’ moment. Secondly, what on earth was a press photographer doing attacking the man on the ground? How had he managed to get as close as he did to the (assumed) soldier – purely by virtue of wearing that press vest?
I went onto read the CBS article ‘Palestinian in “press” shirt shot dead after stabbing soldier‘ which supporting the image, answered many of my questions. The article read:-
“Friday’s stabbing took place on the sidelines of clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian stone-throwers in the West Bank city of Hebron. The attacker blended in with journalists standing a few feet from soldiers who were firing tear gas at the stone-throwers at the time….
At one point, shouts were heard, followed by several gunshots. Troops rushed to the scene of the stabbing, near a military jeep, and administered aid to the injured soldier who was eventually taken away by ambulance. The attacker lay on the ground, clutching a knife in his right hand.”
In terms of documentary or news photography, for me, this image provides very little information and on its own, fails to stand up as a newsworthy image. We have no indication of the nearby clashes between troops/stone-throwers; we didn’t see that there was in fact a group of journalists and the man had managed to hide himself in the group until he acted, we didn’t see, hear or smell the tear-gas or stone-throwing, nor did we hear the shouts and gunshots. There are too many unanswered questions. There is no context offering information on what led up to the event. However, what it did do was encourage me to read about the image and find out more on the Internet, so in some respect it was an incredibly successful image. With free time being the most finite resource for most people, I guess this photograph actually works!
CBS News Article (2015) Palestinian in “press” shirt shot dead after stabbing soldier. At: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-troops-palestinian-man-dead-stabs-soldier/