03 April 2011

Photographic Conventions: Prayers and Protests

I've started to notice a pattern of imagery surrounding the political conflicts roiling across the Islamic world. Some of the pattern is embodied in images from different photographers, some is due to the tendency of editors at Western publications to print images from the same photographer. No matter. What are we seeing here?

Sitra, Bahrain — Wearing a Bahrain flag tied into a cape, a man
prays with others Friday in the city that hosted three funerals for
victims of a government crackdown on protesters at the Pearl
roundabout. Photo: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times.

Sana'a,Yemen: A Yemeni girl stands among female
anti-government demonstrators attending noon prayers.
Photo: Muhammed Muheisen/AP.

Sana'a, Yemen: Anti-government protesters attend Friday prayers during a
demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah
Saleh. Photograph: Muhammed Muheisen/AP.

Yemeni children stand among women attending Friday prayers, during
a demonstration
demanding the immediate resignation of Yemeni
President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa
on Friday. For weeks thousands
of Yemenis have been calling for Saleh's ouster. He said
Friday that
he's willing to leave power "but we need to hand power over to safe
hands, not
to sick, resentful or corrupt hands." Photo: AP.

Israeli soldiers keep watch as Palestinians perform their Friday prayers
in an open field in
the village of Qusra, near the Jewish settlement of Shilo.
A Shilo resident was sentenced to
8 months in prison this week
for kidnapping and beating a 15-year-old Palestinian boy in
Photo: AFP.
Sources: The images here are the product of a very unsystematic search. I'd wager you can find other, similar images pretty easily. The top image is from the "Framework" feature at The Los Angeles Times - 02/18/2011. The second and third images are from the "24 Hours in Pictures" feature at The Guardian - 03/22/2011 and 04/02/2011 respectively. The bottom two images are from the "Picture This" feature at Spiegel International - 04/01/2011 and 03/25/2011 respectively. In each instance. I've lifted both image and caption from the source.



Blogger tslater said...

I have noticed this trend as well and love the pictures you highlighted. Do you think this is normalizing Islamic prayer or Islamicizing (and thus "othering") the protests and protesters?

04 April, 2011 12:30  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

I actually am not sure what is going on here. In part, there is an interesting contrast between these images and the plethora of images showing boisterous crowds protesting that we've seen over the past months.

What I find striking is not just the praying, but the veiled women. either this is a picture of Muslim masses on the verge of taking over the world or it is an interesting contrast to the Muslim as inherently violent and dangerous. (Not that religious impulses are not often violent, but that it not what most readily comes to most people's minds.)


04 April, 2011 22:26  
Blogger tslater said...

I agree that images of veiled women praying are a particularly striking choice. I do think that there is an element of pure intrigue, however, when it comes to "exotic dress" of any kind fueling the image selections.

These pictures seem to be giving us a new image for non-violence while "othering" the protests and protesters. Very interesting...

05 April, 2011 15:41  
Blogger Ian Wang said...

The image of veiled women is kind of a cliche nowadays, and has been for the longest time. It baffles me why they continue to show up on our screen. Is it because of the simple visual unity that the act of mass praying presents, that makes it so attractive to ordinary photographers?

I think there are just too many uncreative photographers and photo editors at work, who think good photojournalism is all about using extreme wide angle or telephoto to capture simple compositional contrasts. Compare these to Cartier Bresson I just want to barf.

07 April, 2011 18:37  

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