laura boushnak – survivor



Cluster Bomb Survivor by Laura Boushnak

Mohammed’s prosthetic legs lay on the sofa at his home in the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh in Tyre. Mohammed lost both legs when he was sitting behind his father on a motorbike and drove over a cluster bomb near Tyre in the last week of Israel-Hezbollah war. According to the UN demining organization, more than thirty people were killed and more than 230 wounded by cluster bombs dropped during the 2006 war in Lebanon. Handicap International says children make up 24% of casualties.


Website: Laura Boushnak


47 Responses to “laura boushnak – survivor”

  • This photograph is very simple, very reduced in what it shows and yet these legs without a body say it all. The story of Mohammed unfolds in my head.
    I like this image so much because it is so “non excited” at a first glance and then at a second look the image unfolds with all its power!
    I hope we will learn something from this.
    Laura, thank you very much for your fine work!

  • Very powerful image! Again I agree with the above comment… so simple that it can easily be overlooked but deserves every bit of attention. checking out the rest of the photo essay on your site now. great stuff

  • I’m usually just a lurker here but I wanted to say how much I like this photograph…I love the fact that its strength comes from what is not shown. Understatement sometimes has power…the ability to quietly shock.

  • Very powerful…the absence is so strong, yet the image is so simple.

  • What a shock – from reading the title and seeing the image, I thought this was an art piece put together with Photoshop. A sort of Dali homage with the beach poster in the top right and the fan cooling a non-existent body… That is, of course, until I read the description below the image. Now I feel guilty for my initial reaction. I’m wondering if anyone else viewing this for the first time had a similar experience. The Selected Photographs link just says ‘Victim’ on my screen, yet when you scroll down to the description (invariably the last thing you see) the name changes to ‘Cluster Bomb Survivor’, which also leads me to ask whether the type of reaction I had was what the presenter was aiming for. Incidentally, the ‘perception-shift’ induced by this photo reminded me of Chris Steele-Perkins’ ‘Sumo’ in terms of its image-to-title dynamic.

  • Salut Laure! Ca-va? Ce’st magnifique ca. Maybe a little heavy on the left but brilliant.

  • Bonjour Laure,

    This image is very strong, and essay too. I’m glad to know your work. I will take time to look your website.

    Best, audrey

  • Beautiful. Even more so with a strong story behind it. And the poster with the legs..

  • was going to slate this as a bad photshp hatchet job until i read the caption..

    simple and effective


  • Very Provocative. Well Done.

  • Laura, at first glance I thought it was a joke, manipulated photograph; then I read the caption, then I looked at your website. I’m not laughing. I find that the most powerful indictment against war is not the actual conflict but the aftermath.

    Great website Laura, I will spend some time there.

    Best wishes,


  • Laura;

    Congratulations. A disturbing but strong and compelling image.

  • As good a war photo as I have seen.

  • This photo certainly grabs attention, and thankfully so.
    May images like this act as a catalyst to finding some semblance of peace and mutual understanding in a tumultuous world.

    Laura, nice job and good luck!

  • Very simple and extremely powerful. Like others, it took me through a range of emotions. The inclusion of the poster upper right, just a portion of it, is added brilliance and tragedy. Important work well done. Very small nitpick – flash reflection on wall is detracting.

    Click on photo for larger version.

  • Interesting how the swirls on the couch are intertwined with each other, yet the legs resting on them are attached to nothing…the negative space above the couch echoes this absence. But the fan on them gives them life, and a bit of a breeze in a time to relax after a long day. Love the inclusion of the poster. Very intriguing image.

  • strong photo..
    the circles..
    really is quite shocking..

  • Great, tells an immense story.
    Great angle on this saga, most photographs show people with out limbs so really powerful to see a completely different perspective (limbs without people). It just goes to show a bit of lateral thinking on a common theme can generate completely new interest.

  • A true sign of originality in photography is when you look at an image, cannot figure it out, read the caption and find that it all makes sense. If the image then carries an important message, it becomes more than a photograph: it becomes a light shining on an important truth. Laura has accomplished this feat in her portrait of Mohammed’s prosthesis sitting on the couch. Brava to you, my friend.


  • very powerful image. great photo laura.
    it’s really very intense…..

  • for me its a rare case of re-appraising a picture in light of the words written with it. At first glance i thought it was a gimmick[ and there is surely intention in the placing of the legs]. On reading the text however, I understood the message so much better and, i have to agree, it gives the picture more power.
    A powerful message with a subtle shot.

  • speechless…
    it messed up my day…
    now im surrounded by demons… once again…
    congratulations… to the photog..
    (and yes , i will keep my mouth shut… too much to say here anyways…)

  • powerful photograph. At first glance I thought photo had been digitally to remove the person except for the legs. The caption helped me out.
    Simple but effective.

  • no words here (or just a couple: original and effective)

  • Laura, WOW! Love the feet/legs in the upper right hand corner to add a level of suggestion–is there a near frame with more of this poster and a scosh less on the left side?

    Regardless, an excellent new take on this all-to-often-forgotten subject.


  • Laura, WOW! Love the feet/legs in the upper right hand corner to add a level of suggestion–is there a near frame with more of this poster and scosh less on the left side?

    Regardless, an excellent new take on this all-to-often-forgotten subject.


  • Brilliant photograph for all the reasons above. Brilliant stuff on your site. I’m in awe.

  • good photograph. cheers.

  • I too thought this was a trick of photoshop until I read the caption and then reeled with the meaning of it all.

    I can understand why somebody mentioned they found the left so heavy in the picture. I think it works well though, because to transitions to the right and the light naturally and in the direction of the raised foot. The fan pointed down toward the feet and in movement—this black static piece of metal moving while what we associate withe movement (feet) is so doomed to be still on its own. And then the subtle parody of artificial life in those roses–who are blocked from view my metal and mechanics–like flesh asphalt and a bomb….to painful reminder of a still life on the beach in the upper left.

    Powerful, sublime, delicate, astounding.

  • Hello Laura!

    First, do you know of The Aftermath Project? “War is Only Half the Story”..I have Volume I and there is nothing in that book that is more powerful than your photo. If you don’t already know of this project (hint, there are GRANTS!), please see here:

    Beyond that, when i saw this, i was jolted by the strange disconnect, the ghostly, magical disappearing act. The end of his legs is so abrupt that it grabs you and holds and makes you want to know why. Maybe i am still gullible but my first thought was not photoshop. My first thought was simply “why?”. When i read the text, i looked and looked at these crazy sneakers, socks and totally cool jeans. And i began to imagine the rest of Mohammed and the shock of this totally cool, today guy with his legs blown off in a cluster bomb halfway around the world brought the war home practically to my own house.

    I had a similar experience when i first viewed Spencer Platt’s photograph captioned “Young Lebanese drive through devastated Beirut Neigborhood, 15 August” that won first place in World Press photos for 2007. Go here for the photo and a video of Spencer discussing the experience of shooting this photograph.

    Your photograph and Spencer’s photograph produce the same palpable knowing that war is not just inanimate shrouded natives dead in the dusty streets (as if that wasn’t bad enough). War is about real people and real loss. He said it better than i can:

    “We often think we know what war looks like but it is not until we get to war that we realize it looks like us”…

    Wonderful honor to “meet” Mohammed, with or without his legs. I wish him a better future than the governments of this world have shown him so far.

    my very best:

  • my comment is awaiting moderation? eeks…when did this start?

  • LAURA …
    please do submit this photograph to any fitting contest you can possibly find.

  • Thank you guys for ALL the comments and great feedback. Your words provide me with such great strength to continue this difficult project.

    Kathleen, thanks a lot for the advice and links.

    Young Tom, I didn’t use flash in this image. The white spot on the wall is from the natural light coming through the door on my right :)

    Michael, still in Moscow?

    I would also like to share the background of this shot. When I first started my project, Mohammed was the first victim I took photos of. I met him three months following his accident. I saw him recently after almost two years. I was sitting in their living room talking with his sister and waiting for him to come back. When he first entered the room, I was really happy to see him able to walk again. Unfortunately he doesn’t like to wear the prosthetic legs so often, as he finds them difficult to adjust to. He sat in front of me, we chatted a bit. He wasn’t in the mood to be photographed so I respected his wish, put down my camera and continued talking with his sister. Then he excused himself and said, I want to go to my room, and that’s when he took off his legs.

  • this is great. i too had to look twice at this. nice job.

  • CONGRATULATIONS. No need to say anything more.

  • A superb image that no other medium but photography could render so potently, yet all done with the soberest means. I like how the sofa designs help retain the visual focus on the legs, by swirling around it. Nice touch with the correspondance of the dancing legs in the poster. Thank you Laura.

  • A remarkable photograph…i’ve been ‘obsessed’ by it for 3 days now…for all the reasons written above…and the essay is also remarkably powerful, but it is this photograph that re-invents US, the viewer, challenges us and denies us and then forces us to re-define our idiotic visual and self-aggrandizing, dump-ass reactions/thoughts/assumptions about what it is we see and how we trump ourselves all over the god-damned place spouting out innocuous platitudes about photography and life and then yet, in the end, it allows us to become ourselves again, visually: to feel heart break in the wince of a moment…

    I would have loved that the ENTIRE essay be shown, but, the singularity and the intelligence and ultimately the compassion of this photograph is extraordinary, the way to create real empathy for the victim by challenging the viewer to be WRONG in their assumption is a remarkably agile, effective and ultimately powerful tool to speak and witness the truth of others suffering….

    the chord straps like white ligaments exposed, utterly devastating…

    thank you for sharing with us….


    ps. david, yes, i saw the thread between the two ideas/concepts of ‘apparel’…what we cloak ourselves in to confuse, to blind, to sublimate ourselves, what we cling to vs. what we are forced to wear by necessity or truth: we are really made up and what we kid ourselves about….in the end, for me, the irony is heartbreaking too….the world, sadly, more often wears old dresses of starlets and tears us, and rather imagines the lives of the children whose dream would simply be to wear a pair of jeans, naturally…..

  • BOB…

    you are eloquent as usual…i count on you….

    i too would love to have published the whole essay…but, Laura did not submit her whole essay….it all looks so obvious when a single is up and the link is cleanly below…but, if i , or anyone, had to play investigative editor and try to dig around and see what else each single submitter had, it would be yet another full time job…and a lot of back and forth with the photographer to have everything re-submitted, re-sized , re-built…the singles come in at a different size than the essays etc etc etc..

    even if i had several editors here it would be very difficult to “second guess” who was submitting what…i think we will just have to go for what the photographer wants, not what they should have done….however, i will write a post recommending to all photographers that if they have a single from an essay, they should submit both…some do this already….

    actually in Laura’s case, maybe the single was all we needed….certainly the most powerful of her images..and it forces us to go look at the rest….

    anyway amigo, your suggestions, and the suggestions of others, always most welcomed….

    as soon as EPF over, we can start working on the very best way for you to work with guest editors and writers…..i want it to be a rewarding experience for all and with minimum life impact….

    cheers, david

    cheers, david


    what are you seeing?? there is nothing set up by us to “hold comments”..once in awhile , because of the built in spam filter, something will get hung up (as is Bob frequently), but this is not done on purpose by us….anyway, i check from time to time to see if any legitimate comment is being held in spam or otherwise and is released…

    cheers, david

  • David :))))

    i TOTALLY hear you :)))…i think this 1 photograph (which is utterly singular) is an entire essay in itself…as witness, as powerful indigment of war, as visual puzzle, as truth, a photograph, it is remarkable…and that’s all we needed…that it makes us QUESTION our basical visual assumptions and arrogance is an astonishment and I am so happy Laura sent it in and that you FOUND it through all the submissions :)))))…and wanting to see the Essay is totally NOT a criticism of you or burn…this photograph really really slapped me wide wide open….i just hope that all viewers take the time to go to her website….

    for me, always, the best work CHALLENGES viewers and their preconceptions, FORCES them to LOOK AGAIN/THINK AGAIN/QUESTION AGAIN…whether it is with Journalism/Documentary (as it is here) or with Conceptual/Art, doesn’t matter…as long as the viewer is offer an opportunity to be challgened, not to serve up their preconceptions…

    am almost finished the ‘text’ for M’s picture (the text is very short, for Bob black)…will send it soon (been a tough 2 weeks, with reality: like health and grant $$ shit, etc)….

    finish your EPF first (M just sent her stuff in too) and then we’ll work on the other stuff (editing)….text soon to come…


  • DAH

    hi! yes, it was really weird..there was a band in a different color..i don’t recall, maybe light orange with white letters and it said my comment was being moderated. That’s all. It was at the bottom of my text and ran horizontally all the way across. I thought this was something new but when i made a post to Brigitte et Bernard it did not appear. So i was curious too. i thought maybe the moderating text was keyed to comment length or something since my comment on Survivor was much longer than on Brigitte et Bernard. Oh well..anyway, that’s what i saw..:))


  • Kathleen:

    your comments (or rather, everyone’s) get ‘moderated’ automatically if you include more than 1 link to a website (this is a spam protection device by WordPress)…i use to ALWAYS get moderated…not by David, but by the software….although, no i am considered spam, so if i gype in my real email or weblink or name the software blacklists me as spam (thus i use this moniker)….so, it wasnt that you were moderated, but that all people are if they post more than one hyper-link….so now, i try to post 1 link per comment…

    hope that helps


  • ps. your origial comment had 2 links:

    a) the aftermath project


    b) WP link to spencer’s discussion…

    it’s a useful help: we list 1 link per/comment..


  • “Young Tom, I didn’t use flash in this image. The white spot on the wall is from the natural light coming through the door on my right :)”

    I had assumed … always bad to assume and at first glance this photo is full of assumptions, many of them wrong, making it all the better :))

    Every time I look at this I also see the faint ghost of movement in the left (right in photo) foot. Slightly disturbing, and just another very subtle touch in a great photo. Congratulations again Laura on your important work done very well.

  • hi bb(Homer)

    gotcha, Bob..yeah, it occurred to me afterward that two links might trigger auto spam alert..thanks for confirming that!


  • Laura,

    It is very strong and meaninful picture.
    I usually feel and read pictures sufficiently first and after then l read captions.
    When I look your work first…. very strange …where is the upper part of the body???…:))

    Thank you very much for sharing.

  • Laura,

    Viewing your image was like a poetic punch to the gut. It speaks volumes without being heavy-handed or cliche. What’s missing from the frame is what makes this image. My heart aches for the senseless pain and suffering inflicted on those living in war zones across the world.

    Best of luck in continuing your work.

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