michael francis mcelroy – beating



















Beating  by  Michael Francis McElroy


Ft Lauderdale, Florida .This unidentified man was attacked and beaten by 2  youths in broad daylight. Teen violence is a serious and rapidly growing problem in America. From the horrible incident at Columbine, Colorado, to the everyday incidents of youth violence, it is apparent that the problem is growing not shrinking. There are, according to most studies, several possible contributing factors which lead young people to violent behavior. One problem facing children growing up in America is today’s media bombardment. Children growing up in today’s media are learning all the wrong things at all the wrong times.

(editors note:  this is a straight un-posed photograph of an actual event as so described    -david alan harvey)


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Michael Francis McElroy


123 Responses to “michael francis mcelroy – beating”

  • Unposed. Interesting word. But the selection going on in the photographers mind is obvious. Great above the fold photo.

    That should be the new “Metallica” or “Pantera” album cover…:)
    loves it!!!!!!!!

  • This is VICIOUS – with s SNAKE.
    awesome Michael Francis McElroy

  • Unusual and obviously powerful composition for a “straight” news shot with great impact. Puts a bloody face on the issue.

    So Michael, if you get a chance I would like to hear more about how this was taken, and your involvement, i.e. did you happen on this, how did you help the guy out, what was your first inclination, what were you thinking at the time? Always interested to hear the behind the scenes.

  • and I thought
    it was a set up shot…
    I want to know, as young Tom does….
    what was going on?!?

  • as you say, ‘this would make a nice album cover’
    only if it wasnt for real
    i wish dear brother you could be a little bit more sensitive

    i am glad i am again looking into black space
    and i hope anton does not fix IE8 errors…

    this is so disturbing
    i really do not want to look at this again
    (well, i guess, your picture is effective
    but i honestly hope you were able to help this kid.)

  • Hmmm, having actually been this guy years ago makes this photo personal to me as well.

  • this is the kind of shot that should win a world-press-photo award. It’s relative to a real-life issue that swells more and more each year, it has suggestive biblical iconography, the quality of the file is outstanding, the tonality of the image is perfect, and the effing severity of the subject is jaw-dropping.

    i can’t help but share the fact that when i was twenty-two years old i happened on five or six teen-agers bullying a girl and quite naively thinking that these cute little munchkins would actually be afraid of both my size and relative age (when i was thirteen i was) i went to pull one of the boys off the girl (the girl would later would be treated for a broken jaw), as i reached for the first boy i was immediately dropped to the ground with a blow that came from behind with ‘some’ hard object. to make a long-story short the first thing i remember after a pack of boys took me to the ground was waking up in the hospital with a balloon inflated from my nose down the back of my throat from a partial face reconstruction that had two blood transfusions as a pre-requisite. Boys will be boys right?

    i’ve seen this pack-behaviour four times since then, and maybe it did exist when i was thirteen, i don’t know. But two of those time have been in the last two years here in the UK both in broad daylight, and one was on a bus, very scary. My sister and her husband are both high school teachers in upstate NY teaching at the same school we all graduated from. The incident of students having go at teachers is not uncommon there now and it’s a drastic change in school culture there.

    i’m not on some crusade against youth or anything, i just have more of a scientific interest in the whole thing. What is going on that a large population of youth don’t have the same health respect for adults that many of us had?

    anyway, sorry for diverting the subject if i have, like i say it’s a wonderful photo and one that brings back some memories and one that i think is an exact piece of visual evidence that i hope finds its way into a basket of evidence in a meaningful report.

  • I respect Michael’s effort in bringing this issue up. Editor’s note was also helpful to clarify the point of ‘posing’ because on the first look, I had the feeling that this almost ‘crucified’ form (including composition and background) were deliberately ‘created’ to reiterate the issue. I was wrong.

    Yet, I find this photograph quite a disturbing one! With due respect to the photographer’s effort, I wonder if there were no other way to portray the same thing without going into so much gory ‘details’!

    Photographer’s note says (and quite correctly) that “One problem facing children growing up in America is today’s media bombardment. Children growing up in today’s media are learning all the wrong things at all the wrong times.”

    But I wonder if this photograph is in itself a case in point of that very problem!

    I am sorry that I am unable say that ‘I love’ this photo because (to my eyes) there is nothing ‘to love’ here. I don’t have the experience to know if this “the kind of shot that should win a world-press-photo award” but I personally feel there are more subtle ways to portray the same thing, because nobody wants a photograph to aggravate the problem itself.

    In this respect, I would like to clarify my point with an example. Some years ago (in 2004, to be precise), a photographer (Arko Datta) from my city was awarded the top prize in world press photo. Here is the link to that photo:


    It was a photo of a woman mourning a relative who had died in the devastating tsunami.

    This photographer could have shot the photograph in different ways but he chose to shoot it this particular way because (his words) it’s gruesomeness would have distracted too much from the grieving subject of the picture, so he decided just to include the hand. I think that was one of the clinching factors in choosing the winner in that year’s world press photo award.

    Michael, I am ready to apologize to you if I have said anything wrong. I just tried to point out what I thought should be pointed out in respect of these kind of subjects.

    Wish you all the best in future…

    Warm Regards,


  • BROKEN LINK – his website is http://www.mmcelroy.com/index2.php

    bodo – i like your point and that WPP photo was a winner for exactally the reasons you state.

    glad soemone mentioned jesus :ø)
    it is often the case that the subjects of photos become complicit in the framing of a photo – drunk, beaten or high it´s amazing how people sometimes see what we are seeing and adjust themselves, which makes me wonder if that is what has happened here.. beaten kidd sees snapper shooting and raises arms.. i cannot see the snapper posing him like jesu.. tooooo inappropriate, perhaps.. unless there is a relationship between snapper and subject we don´t know about.

    so.. i´d like to know more about whats gone on here.. the circumstance of the fight.. is this a victim or protagonsit.. how long after the fight.. posed or not..
    having said that none of my desired questions are really relevant – as an example of illustrative editorial photography it works very well..

  • Hi Bodo,

    I hear what you’re saying and I think I understand your sense of compassion. A feeling of photographer compassion can often be felt in the way a tog frames a subject and more so, evidence of photographer compassion can actually add narrative that wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t collect some evidence of sentiment from someone that was actually there.

    maybe the photograph you linked actually collected some additional merit by the choice of framing in a ‘compassionate’ way. ‘Supposedly’ the framing made it less gruesome this way. Or, maybe there is a much more powerful illusion taking place and the framing is more to horrify then to reduce horror, let me try to explain.

    Images like the one you link, that are deliberately framed to subtract information, to deliberately hold back information you might want to see, to deliberately prevent you from ever coming fully to grips with what is outside the frame lines, are using one of the most powerful tools in photography; it’s narrative at it’s best.

    when used in this scenario you link, it’s not unlike the concept of the boogy-man. We don’t know what a boogy man looks like because it looks different to all of us; it’s simply the summation of all of our terror. The information we can’s see in the image you linked has all the power of the boogy-man because every individual will imagine what they think personally could be horrifically gruesome on the other side of the frame lines, the fact that the photographer even put the word ‘gruesomeness’ in our heads (why not ‘tragic’, or ‘sad’ or nothing at all) and then prevents us from knowing what ‘gruesomeness’ means to him makes the suggestive illusion even more powerful and more deliberate as it’s the summation of everything every individual finds gruesome to them. If that makes sense i hope you see the irony.

    And with equal irony on this image above; you have a victim with a nose that has been exploded pinned to a graphical sandy canvas that looks like a scene from the crucification of Christ, it has block symmetry that reinforces this initial feeling and more so a canvas that incidentally has graffiti possibly left from some juvenile delinquents of a perfectly shape, un-exploded nose. We didn’t see the tsunami and we don’t see who did this to him. But we can ‘imagine’ all kinds of monsterous things as they are dubbed ‘teenagers’

    This is also why images like this can become iconic to a meaningful cause. This a massive constellation of subject matter that triggers and reinforces a precise, exact emotion on both conscious and unconscious levels, arranged simply and honestly. It’s like a visual Edgar Allen Poe story. That is why i hope this image makes it somewhere worthy of its merit.

    As far as WPP, i’ve less and less respect for it, this year making it even more suspect, there were better candidate images with better ‘World’ relevance. This year’s winner seems more like a backhander from the judge for not paying her photographer well enough when he did work for her, but that’s just bitter speculation caused by the fact that the tog was very good (albeit very poor now), but this year there were better images from equally good togs.

  • before anyone says it, i’ll say it. that WPP comment is out of line, i appreciate a single person doesn’t pick the winner and the suggested person is of outstanding character, i was just again bitter with the choice i suppose; and the historical circumstances make it easy to snipe.

  • the WPP comment made me smile joe – nothing wrong with being forthright, as you know.. no appology needed i think.

    the past WPP winner linked by bodo is a great capture for me simply because it allows an editor to use the photo.. a photo of the full state of the corpse probably would not be used around most of the world, where the media is over sanitized.. i think that´s where the intelligence of the shot lies – it´s knowingly shot with the grieving woman in mind and also accepting of the fact that death is an uncomfortable sight which editors just will not use.
    unless you are in norway, in which case dagbladdet will show EXACTLY what a child slaughtered by israeli soldiers looks like.. much to their credit in my opinion..

  • ¨One problem facing children growing up in America is today’s media bombardment. Children growing up in today’s media are learning all the wrong things at all the wrong times.¨

    this statement confuses me, probably because i am not exposed to the u.s. media..
    i would rather see links to the studies which examine the reasons for teen violence, since the statement above does not give quantifiable information or directions on where to read about the media in relation to teen violence.

    it confuses me because surely in the past the u.s. population has been far more exposed to violence – wars on television were more brutally reported than now, for example.. so what is the information which teenagers are getting and what is the right time for the information?
    which might lead to the discussion – has violent music ever cause violence in the listener? does violence on tv lead to violence?

    i wonder if the nihilism felt by young people in the west is more a product of malevolent government, the loss of individuality resulting from extreme capitalism and neglect on the part of government to interact with people regarding their actual needs, rather than leaning on rhetoric designed to appeal to the masses through opinion poll information rather than actions designed to enable a more compassionate society.. socialism has some great benefits, as we feel in norway and sweden.. with 10 weeks paid holiday, free health care and 12 months full paid maternity.. people feel engaged by government and looked after for their contributions.. people feel like citizens and not like consumers and care for a community because the greater community cares about them.

    one of the greater contributing factors to the war-like mentality of football hooliganism in the u.k. can be traced back to the way in which the working classes were lied to about the reasons, motivation and benefits of the british empire, only 50 or 60 years earlier.. a superiority based on racism and warped Darwinism which still leaves trace problems today..
    america has been lying to it´s people about the current wars.. the motivation.. the results.. the exit strategies being solely about commerce and creation of new business for the friends and colleagues of the governing people.

    i wonder – is it not the leaders of the country who have set the president for extreme violence and terror rather than the tv media who report on it? because the american people have been lied to – as colonial powers lie to their people as a matter of course.. and the reaction must stem from that, i think.

    i mean – how COULD there be arrangements for airforce one and a fighter jet to fly low over new york without even a warning to the mayor.. a public campaign to prevent panic, given the events of 9-11.. the insensitivity of the AF1 flyby leaves people on the outside incredulous as to the blatant lack of respect and regard for the population on america by those who hold the reigns.. the level of neglect illustrated could be a metaphor, could it not?


  • I find this image seriously disturbing.

    Perhaps even more so because my initial assumption was that it was a rather predictable take on religious iconography. On reading the text I find myself captured by horror that is represented here. I remember a colleague asking ‘what is wrong with kids today?’ as though they were nothing to do with ‘us’. Perhaps the most distressing side of this image is that it asks us how we have contributed to the brutal modern values that lead to incidents like this.


  • this says it best for me :ø)

    ¨Lyrics to Uncle Sam Goddamn :
    The name of this song is uncle sam goddamn
    It’s a show tune but the show aint been written for it yet.
    Were gonna see if tony Jerome and the band can maybe work this shit out for me
    And straighten me out right quick
    I like it so far man


    Come on, lets go

    Welcome to the united snakes
    Land of the thief, home of the slave
    Grand imperial guard where the dollar is sacred

    Come on lets do this shit for real now

    Smoke and mirrors, stripes and stars
    Stoner for the cross in the name of god
    Bloodshed, genocide, rape and fraud
    Written to the pages of the law, good lord

    The (inaudible) and latch key child
    Ran away one day and started acting vile
    King of where the wild things are, daddy’s proud
    Cause the roman empire done passed it down

    Imported and tortured the work force
    They never healed the wounds or shook the curse off
    Now the grown up goliath nation
    Holdin open auditions for the part of david, can you feel?

    Nothing can save you, you question the rain
    You get rushed in and chained up
    fists raised but I must be insane
    Cause I cant figure a single goddamn way to change it

    Welcome to the united snakes
    Land of the thief, home of the slave
    Grant imperial guard where the dollar is sacred
    And power is god

    Welcome to the united snakes
    Land of the thief, home of the slave
    Grant imperial guard where the dollar is sacred
    And power is god

    We all must bow to the fact were lazy
    The fuck you obey me and why do you hate me
    Only two generations away from the
    Worlds most despicable slavery trade

    Pioneered so many ways to degrade a human being
    That it cant be chains to this day
    Legacy so ingrained in the way that we think
    We don’t need to wear chains to be slaves

    Lord that’s a sinful display
    The overseers even got raped along the way
    Cause the children cant escape from the pain
    And theyre born with the pores and this hatred in their veins

    Try and separate a man from his soul
    Youll only strengthen him and lose your own
    Well shoot that fucker if he walk near the throne
    Remind him that this is my home (now im gone)

    Welcome to the united snakes
    Land of the thief, home of the slave
    Grant imperial guard where the dollar is sacred
    And power is god

    Welcome to the united snakes
    Land of the thief, home of the slave
    Grant imperial guard where the dollar is sacred

    Hold up, gimme one right here

    You don’t give money to the bums
    On the corner with a sign, bleeding from their gums
    Talking about you don’t support a crackhead
    What you think happens to the money from yo’ taxes

    Shit the governments an addict
    With a billion dollar a week kill brown people habit
    And even if you aint on the front line
    When the master yell crunch time you right back at it

    You aint look at how you hustling backwards
    And the end of the year add up what they subtracted
    3 outta twelve months your salary
    Paid for that madness, man that’s sadness

    Whats left get a big ass plasma
    To see where they made dan rather point the damn camera
    Only approved questions get answered
    Now stand your ass up for that national anthem

    Welcome to the united snakes
    Land of the thief, home of the slave
    Grant imperial guard where the dollar is sacred
    And power is god

    Welcome to the united snakes
    Land of the thief, home of the slave
    Grant imperial guard where the dollar is sacred
    And power is god

    [instrumental break]

    Custom made, the consumer news
    Keep saying we’re free
    But were all just blue¨

  • Well all the debate is fantastic, but I’d dearly love to hear David’s opinion on this image. “Not posed”, but hey, posed is the very first word that came into my head.

    I’d like to hear more background on this image too, although I suspect there is more to come…it’s just that it’s hard to see the process that’s going on when there’s just one image.

    It’s a fantastic capture, and bravely done by Michael, as it’s easy to lose one’s composure when confonted by situations such as this.

    Bravo! Let’s see and hear more!

  • Just as I just wrote under Nathaniel’s powerful and heart-breaking portrait ‘Bullet Catcher”, the power of Michael’s photograph again lay in it’s immediate and potent ability to contravene our immediate expectation. As with Laura Boushnak’s “Survivor,” we arrive at an immediate conclusion upon first viewing (a conceptual art portrait, staged or reflected, as a metaphor for Christ’s crucifixtion) only to look more closely and see that the blood is real, that the expression in the eye is both shock and exhaustion and stunned confusion and then we realize that this isnt some portrait shoot for a Death/Black-Metal music album, but a harrowing moment after a young boy has been attacked…

    as Jim correctly points out, as a newspaper shot, it would make a brilliant and perfect above-the fold cover. I was reminded of Anton Lazarus Hammerl famous shot of the young boy being attacked in Africa (cant remember the country) or the famous shot from Haiti of the boys being beaten (haviv, knight?, cant rmemember)….but also, the power of this image comes from the extraordinary tension between the reality of the moment and it’s visual metaphoric power. Remember Tyler Hicks extraordinary ‘pieta’ photogrpah from the Lebanon war two years ago, and all the derisive comments he’d received by people who thought it was ‘staged’ or who felt it was too ‘set up’ all that nonsense, when in truth, the power of a great photography and the skill of a great photographer lay in the ability to experience the moment, to see a moment unfolding and to react, to sense that inside that moment, may come a picture that contains all the power of both truthful story telling and metaphor (we need both in our lives)….

    it’s been a powerful and heartbreaking expeprience to go one-on-one with both these photographs of young adults. As a father (forget the photographer’s hat) who has a teenage son who was a victim last year of violence and assault, my heart just breaks at the continual perpetration of this, whether it’s youth-on-youth or adult-on-youth (sending sons and daughter to kill and to die), it just staggers me that we still have not materialized, as a society, as a world, our bogus claims of civilization and progress. We still live in dark days and that we’ve let our children down this path is, to me, such a profound sadness.

    A powerful and important photograph and I thank you for sharing it with us

    all the best

  • David Bowen:

    the United States has no strangehold on miscreant behavior, nor on enmity, arrogance, and idiocity….we’ve all done our part in failing to teach our children and make nations built not on empty things but on something else….sadly, most of us, are still beasts…maybe our human plight is that we’ve deluded ourselves to think otherwise….we nest ourselves amid our material and spiritual and intellectual comfort, failing to see, most of the time, the awful mess we’ve done…that there are children on the street, or people go without food or shelter or care in a world satied with wealth is an indication that the all are equally to blame….


  • I think it’s important to bear in mind that children do not grow up in a vacuum, so to speak. What is happening inside the family early on in their lives is far more important that anything they may or not be exposed on on TV, in films and on the internet.
    In areas of our cities where youth violence, gangs etc are problems you have to wonder what has caused the wholesale collapse of the family and community structures that existed in years gone by.
    In that sense, your concerns about media influence need to be traced back far further than this current generation – we need to be looking at what was happening in the seventies and eighties, when today’s parents were brought up. I too am skeptical about the media argument…the media always seems to me to be a convenient distraction from where the real issues are.

    This is a powerful, raw and shocking image but can the subject’s posture really be unposed? I’d love to know how the photographer came to be in the position of shooting this so soon after the incident.

  • The story of this picture is, i was driving home from assignment. At a red light i saw out of the corner of my eye this kid running for his life as two other youths chased after him. The victim was trying to reach a storefront door for safety, but at the moment he reached for it the others had caught up to him and started to kick and punch him!!! it lasted for 30seconds and they ran! i followed the two who had gave the beating while on the phone with 911. After I saw where the kids had gone and told the police, i turned around and drove back to the scene. I saw the victim in a parking lot stumbling around, talking to a community service aid who ask him to step out of the way of traffic and stand over by the wall! he was very disoriented and weak from the loss of blood, he leaned on the wall spread his arms ( if you look at the photograph you can see he is holding onto the bricks to keep his balance) that is when i shot 5 frames before he was taken away by EMS. I wouldn’t have shot this any other way! this cannot be compared to a photograph of someone who was in mourning! they are two completely different scenarios! I think we need to be shocked! we need to see what really goes on in our world…

  • wow, thanks for explaining

  • you´re quite right bob – we all do have to work our way out of past errors as individuals and communities, regardless of the examples set by governments.. but the governments do set such powerful examples…
    i believe around 30 million native americans were killed by the british..

    my hope is that the examples being set are changing.. torture briefs being released, u.s. prison ships being decommissioned along with Guantanamo..
    i guess my overall point is that a population lied to for whatever reason is going to be deeply scared – a population lied to in justification for violence and capitalist pursuits may fair worse than most.

    i agree that we all have to do what we can – the focus on the u.s. was simply due to the focus of the text above being about a u.s. problem.. a photo concerning knife crime in the u.k. or mafia in croatia and the subject would have differed.

    it is an astonishingly complex problem obviously – and it is heartening to see steps being taken to reveal and abruptly end some of the bad examples being set by the previous administration in the u.s.

    all know that violence begets violence and we have to take our individual responsibility in dealing with the problems – for me, talking about the prime example-setters, or governments, is part of that process.

  • Ciara, i couldn’t agree with you more.

    Sometimes i wonder if the cause is as simple as the dual-income family-structure that is more prevalent now than it was before, sometimes i wonder if it was that both our parents and even our school principals were able to own and use a paddle on us when we were growing up, sometimes i wonder if it’s both, in that we get less of a road map from our parents than we used to so it’s the school that dispatches that road map which includes a healthy respect for adults, but because they’ve been declawed they can’t dispatch appropriate discipline that leads to a healthy roadmap.

    sometimes i think it’s something far more radical, something far simpler, and ultimately something far scarier in its logical conclusion, it’s the optimisation of our legal system that started in the States and has now infected the U.K.

    it’s the growing philosophy that you should have such over-whelming rights related to the pursuit of happiness. And these rights should be provided to you by the state. Rights so wide-sweeping that you can sue for damages if anything causes you any harm or even dissatisfaction.

    it’s the kind of exoneration of personal responsibility that will allow you to sue McDonalds for millions for making the coffee too hot for you to pour in your lap while you drive down the road (real story)

    now a days no one is personally responsible for anything we do now and if something bad happens to us there is someone that should get sued. It’s a blame culture with a horrible side affect of little-to-no personal responsibility for our decisions. The insurance companies just eat it up. This theory reconciles perfectly with why we would blame the media for our woes verses blaming each other for not helping our children understanding the context of media, media that has always existed.

    i wonder allot of things, but i don’t wonder if there is a trend in the propensity for the mal-behaviour and i don’t wonder at the speed at which that trend has manifested itself, and now i don’t even wonder if it is a local phenomena as I’ve seen it in the UK and also through my own high-school.

  • Joe, it’s true. we were burgled a couple of weeks ago – they came through the back alley of our terraced street, over our six-foot high wall and smashed their way into our kitchen. the police have told us we can’t put barbed wire, glass or anything too thorny up that back wall to try to stop this happening again because a burglar could injure himself and sue us. i mean, wtf?
    sorry, i digress from the image. but great images sometimes kick start interesting debates

  • Thank you, Michael, for sharing with us the details of how this photo came to be made. But, more importantly, thank you for following the attackers, calling 911 and then returning to see if you could help the victim.

    I first looked at your photo in the middle of last night at around 4:30 a.m. and it stayed with me waking and sleeping until now. It is a disturbing image, to say the least. But it is reality. Unfortunately. And whether we want to or not, we must face reality head on. It’s all too easy to read about beatings, stabbings, people being gunned down and see them as they are portrayed in movies or TV shows. That only perpetuates the sense of unreality.

    I really dislike this photo not because it’s poorly done–it’s superbly done–but because I don’t want to see this kind of suffering that we bring on one another. But I know I must and so I commend you for taking it and showing it here. It’s hard enough to look at the photo; I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for you to experience this in person. I hope the young man is healed of his wounds annd has found safety.


  • Gracie…:)))
    Yes you’re right about being more sensitive..
    It’s just once again I got busted NOT Reading the text..
    I did too think it was staged…
    The Christ “pose” was so obvious to ignore…
    (..& now tongue in cheek or cheek on toe… I still think
    It could make it to a heavy metal album cover..)

    Either way, morning y’all from the sunny City of Angels…

  • I do like the photo. But, I have a problem with the information given. And I haven’t checked this in a couple of years, so it very well could have changed, but the last time I saw the numbers on youth violence, especially murder, they were actually down. The stories of murders get more publicized because they tend to be more, I guess you might say, bizarre? But the actual numbers, and again this was a few years ago so it could have changed, but they have dropped and were lower than in decades. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see that the numbers have risen again—it’s normal for violent crimes to rise in times of economic recession. But this is making a very broad statement without any real evidence to back it up.

    If anyone has checked the numbers on youth violence (I believe the surgeon general puts those out), then please show it. But if you want to talk about a problem with the media, the first on my list is when they create problems, or misrepresent problems. And this happens when they don’t present strong evidence to support their claims, especially the big ones.

  • A “great above the fold photo”?
    Jim, there is not a newspaper that would touch it.

    A youth problem? An American problem? Unfortunately, this kind of violence and brutality have always been with us. Just think of what a crucifixion depicts. It was a common method of execution, slow bloody and public. Ever watch the movie Brave Heart? Native tribes in eastern Canada are documented as having tortured captives for long periods, leaving them tied up and encouraging children to participate. I could just go on and on here. It seems we have not come very far.

    The general public just doesn’t want to see it. No pictures of dead soldiers or their victims please, or any other gory mutilated bodies.

    I hope your photograph finds a place to be heard Michael.

    Gordon L.

  • I would like to comment on this photo from a philosophical point of view… At least my own philosophical point of view…

    “It brings right into your face the miserable, absurd and unfortunate problem(s) with our world today, and I don’t think it’s simply the fact that this guy was beat up”.

    It is obviously a horrible beating and I don’t think justifiable regardless of the situation it happened for, however, I am pretty sure that while Michael was calling 911 he was also trying to figure out a way to get the exact shot he did… “Congratulations”

    I have heard so many phoographers talk about getting certain shots of War, drugs, cancer, prostitution, starvation etc. in order to shed light on and bring attention to a subject in order to make it better… Was that your intention here with regards to youth violence? Are you going to follow this up with a series of images that actually tell a story that pushes society as a whole want to do something about it? Are you already working on such a project? I’m just curious…

    Unfortunately, it’s my belief that these kind of images and further, celebrating them, “which is what “we” largely do, adds directly to the greater problem” along with the cop shows, court shows, reality shows, news etc…

    This picture would not be published in a newspaper, for so many reasons. Probably less of this guys suffering than the likeness to JC and the risk of offending people… although, it certainly would be a candidate for an award at any photo conference…

    Again I am sorry for lashing out hopefully this note is better tempered than my others and it really is about more than the photo.

    I am currently traveling and I am staying in a hostel, I am saturated with pseudo intellectual, college student, coffee shop type arguments about the world and how fucked up and evil it is. I’m just tired of it. I have traveled to maybe 60 different countries in my life and have never seen anything like what we see on the news and in these types of photos. I’m not just lucky either, I travel mostly in third world countries and off the tourist trail… Sure there is bad in the world and OBVIOUSLY bad sells and gets peoples attention. However, by enlarge these images serve as entertainment nowadays. There are lots of images and photogs that do in fact do good, Natczaway or Salgado for example and I know they are tough to emulate however, you will rarely see a shock value photo in their work although their work is very shocking…

    I just think celebrating images like this in any way, weather it’s for an award or an album cover sends the wrong message. As boring as it may be, I’d rather see a great shot of a little old lady being helped across the street by a tattooed street thug.

    Be on the look out all you Bresson’s because I’m certain that does happen…

  • Jumping back to the “youth of today” there is a trend in the UK for gangs to start fights and “slappings” just so they can record them on their mobiles?

  • While I think it is a powerful and raw photograph with a lot of shock value, more so with the later description of the events behind the taking of it, it cannot travel far in the media because it is too much for people to be able to view it. They will just turn away from it, at the same time it is overly dramatic for an incident so sadly common. I’m reminded of Bad Boys 2 where the visual were amazing for such a simple film, both were wasted in this case.

    The religious take, while obviously referential can in fact get in the way of any deeper analysis. There was no death here nor sacrifice on his part for our sins so the gesture becomes co-incidental and empty for me after a while. Thinking aloud here but would it be more powerful say if it was a woman or an ethnic, people can tend to react more to when it isn’t a white man?

    For this image to work, I has to instigate change and then be referred to instead.

    @Ian Aitken: Happy Slappings haven’t been reported in a while, I forgot they existed as well. I also only ever heard about them through, *drum roll* please… the media.

    But it isn’t all doom and gloom, my current project is about youth culture and it is a positive take on that subject to go against the grain of commonly reporting negative aspects to youths. Something which I did email DAH about (after expressing interest) but never got a reply! Wink wink.

  • Gordon and Ross…

    As director of photography at a newspaper in Virginia, let me chime in here. If one of my staffers came back with this photo from a breaking news event, I would be thrilled. (well not thrilled, but you get the idea)

    Yes we would run it! And yes it would be the lead photo on the page. This is of course provided that we had the man’s name. Which, if it was reported to police, we would have.

    This is a great image.

    Of course it needs context. Such as a headline saying something like: ” Local Man Beaten by Teens”

    And the cutline explaining further, what it obviously is… “(name) takes a moment to compose himself following an altercation in which he was beaten by two teenagers.”

    I think part of the problem is that most viewers of THIS image on THIS SITE, are initially seeing it differently than if you picked up the paper and saw it on the front page.

    Here there are a huge variety of images being posted and many of them are not news images. We see portraits and conceptual images here all the time and at first glance it is easy to assume that this falls into one of those categories.

    As David said on the Bullet Catcher post….. “.text, context, are usually necessary for most work…”

    That “context” includes the vehicle in which it is published.

  • Yeah, I’d forgotten too, untill this. I’m not a doom monger, there is plenty to inspire us about todays youth.


    just read your comment and immediately did an e-mail search with your name…came up with nothing…what is your e-address??

  • I was wondering if the victim knew that he was being photographed. I don’t think that I could have done it, feeling it would be a violation of this individual’s privacy. On the other hand, a picture like this could be used as evidence to put the offenders away for a while.

  • I like this picture a lot. I must have been in a similar state a couple of times in my teens, head wounds bleed a lot. We are a violent species. Some idiot teens like to fight, for rank etc. Not being an idiot doesn’t help when someone is giving you a good shoeing. The good thing is that most people grow out of it in their mid 20’s.

    I don’t think that this picture highlights some of things people are mentioning here. Who knows maybe he even deserved it?

  • While it is a fine line to walk when covering a news event such as a fire, accident, murder, etc., photojournalists have a job to do. Yes we have to be compassionate and aware of a victims feelings, but we also have a duty to report the incident. The general rule that I believe most photojournalists follow, is that if we are upsetting the subject, we back off. I personally try to be very discreet when working these situations. But we also believe in getting the image and then we make the call to run it later.

    Many times I have been in situations where I am shooting from a reasonable distance (70-200mm) and the subject will notice me and turn away. That is the cue to stop and find something else to shoot.

    Covering something like this, and knowing when and what to shoot, unfortunately only comes with experience. This cannot be learned in a class or a book. Each situation will be different and it is always a judgement call on the part of the photographer.

    That being said, as a rule of law, a person in a public venue does not have an expectation of privacy.

  • Wow! Powerful image! Yes, at first glance I thought it was posed too. Very sad to hear that it was not, and the story behind the image.

    Not that this was the case, but I hadn’t heard of the “Happy Slapping’s” What a brutal, sad and selfish act. Shameful!

  • Oops! no need for a contraction there…

  • pete – i think you have hit the nail on the head as to why a newspaper could not use it.. there is no information.. and so as a spot news photo elements which would be essential are missing.
    i think it would be published in a contextual form alongside an article about fighting / violence which needed a photo – an illustrative snap perhaps… although again it may depend upon the angle of the article.

    i think a record cover, although it would be iconic, is out of the question unless michael shoved a model release form under his flattened nose.. which thankfully he seems not to have..

    violence, poverty and suffering.. horrible things to photograph and ethical minefields if the motivation is out of whack.

  • David Bowen, what I am saying is it WOULD be used (depending on the paper). Because it WOULD have a headline and caption explaining it.

  • I’m not a lifetime newspaper veteran however, I have worked at a couple and done plenty od photojournalism and ethics workshops I do know a bit. Pete, if you say your paper would publish it then I suppose that is the case. I still believe that is hardly publishable and wouldn’t even be considered at most papers in the states, especially as a spot news feature, unless it was part of some massive city wide riot or something extremely relevant…

  • Hey David, my email is jonathanjk at me dot com. Thanks.

  • I think this is a very strong image which evokes many things. The debate makes me think about the (unresolved) issue of “beautification” of violence when for example war photos depiciting real pain and suffering are so visially beautiful that they almost detour the attention from the issue. The problem with this is that a viewer turns into a passive “voyeur”, like a museum visitor. It’s a difficult one. I think if one chooses to show a photo depicting pain and suffering of others there must be a good reason for doing it. A message, if you will, which goes beyond the visual appreciation part. It’s wonderful to know that the photographer came to his eventual “model’s” rescue.

  • Ross

    I agree that there are some papers that would not run it. I have actually been surprised recently by two winning photos in the NPPA clip contest. Both of dead bodies and both supposedly ran in the papers ( a requirement to be entered in the clip contest).

    Apparently times they are a changing.

  • Pete

    No doubt about that… and your right. My newspaper days were a while ago and short lived at that. Back then and certainly where I was there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell fora photo like that… Further, I didn’t know that the NPPA now had a dead bodies section in the contest… That makes me very sad and lowers the NPPA’s integrity and legitimacy in my eyes…

  • I did a story at the mountain workshops where I followed a coroner for a week. Took shots of lots of dead people. Took some sensitive ones as well as some pretty shocking one’s, the debate that followed at the workshops was fierce. I was aghast as a young wannabe photojournalist that what I thought my best shots were wouldn’t even be shown as part of the slideshow at the workshop(ethical considerations). I was pissed… Another time I got a shot of a fireman hugging his mother after her (his mother’s) house burned down. The paper wouldn’t run it because it was a small town etc. Again I was pissed, the same small town pulled that stuff with me several more times and I finally moved on to another paper… I guess it just depends on the paper… Now as I have aged my thoughts about hardcore photojournalism and at what cost I suppose has changed a bit… I think there is a better more responsible way to convey a message than shock value, no matter how graphically good or beautifully lit the photo is…


    i think this photograph would not run in most places and will win contests in all places…your thoughts on contests vs. newspaper responsibility to readers??

  • DAH
    Not sure I follow? Responsibility to readers?

  • Nevermind I get it, your asking for our thoughts on that… Sorry…

  • ROSS…

    Michael just stood there and took a straight on picture of what was happening right in front of him….he did not create the event, nor change it…what else should he have done?? how should he have been “more responsible”? taken a less graphic picture of a man with blood all over him??? not taken a picture at all?? curious…..

  • DAH

    I wasn’t suggesting that there was a better way to take the photo or even judging it for quality. I am suggesting that images like this (blood, death, pain, suffering etc.) are celebrated and awarded by many and I’m not sure to what end they do anything good or meaningful (although, I suppose you could call this forum educational). I think that is a sad statement for humanity. Our need for this stuff without understanding or reason is really messed up. I see Michael is a photojournalist, so I understand why he was compelled to get this shot, “great” it’s a good shot. Now what? I still think that photojournalism drives many photographers at all costs and celebrates content that steers us in the wrong direction… I am certainly not the authority on whats right and wrong good or bad. It is just my opinion that these kind of images, when shown should be shown with a purpose. Maybe this is the case here, that’s why I asked Michael what he is doing photographically around youth violence and this photo.

  • A photo is a photo………make of it as one does. This sure beats a photo of a easter bunny

  • Ive been on assignment all day, so have really had no time to look over the comments on my photograph! Ive been working on a project about the Economic and foreclosure crisis and spent the day with a 65yr old disabled man who is losing his home, hasn’t had electric since August, his wife has stage 4 brain cancer!!! His situation is disturbing! We live in a country were this is happening everyday! should his story not be told? I do agree that the photograph i took is disturbing! as it should be! the whole episode was disturbing! If you have seen my work? i am not a blood and guts photographer! but i believe in my instincts! which were to first call for help and try to do what little i could, then try and document the result of what i had witnessed! As for contest who knows! i have entered one contest in 10yrs (this year) in POY an image of Barack Obama in Miami ( i covered the election) so i’ve never really thought contest were all that important! As for newspapers they should run images like this! do these things happen? yes! and newspapers are supposed to inform us on whats happening in our world.. I’ve always believed in the saying “out of sight out of mind” and if we don’t see images that shock us! or make us angry! or make us think! i believe change doesn’t take place. It may be hard to look at but i bet it made us think! what! why! ect… I truly believe we need to see what is really going on in this world! good or bad… As far as comparisons to Christ! it never crossed my mind until other post had mentioned it.

  • in one word: “evidence”

    the utility of still photography: “this is something that happened”

    the art that is imagery: “this is captivating”

    the benefit: “invocation of spirit, to dislodge an idle state”

    Alternative: “happy stories that keep you in that comfort zone of ignorance”

    logical conclusion: “wake the up or stay asleep”.

  • Hmmm, Ross I understand but to me journalism, in its best form, has never been about looking away although too often it has. Which direction here is “wrong.” Is it the telling itself that is wrong? I’m not sure people understand the degree to which good newsrooms face ethical dilemmas everyday, and the often tough debates that ensue. I would have run this photo when I had a newspaper, it puts a bloody face to an important community issue/problem, but I (almost) always stopped short of showing bodies. Of course, the question of whether to TAKE a photo or to RUN a photo are two separate issues entirely. I (almost) always took the photo because in the moment it is often nearly impossible to really know exactly what is going on. Photojournalism 101, yes?

    Pete, that is interesting that times are changing. Of course, Bobby Kennedy’s assassination photo was of high enough “significance” to the country that it ran in many, but not all, U.S. papers so many years ago now. Some of my “best” photos were of rescues and unfortunately not all successful ones so some ran and some did not and in some cases I actually participated in the rescue because there were not enough hands on scene, for which I was chastised by another news outlet oddly enough on ethical grounds. I cannot imagine speaking to the mother of a drowned child if I ran the picture of her son in the firefighters arms no matter how good the photo was. That likely would not serve anyone, except perhaps the selfish needs of the publication. On the other hand, if it was war, it well might. If it was family members watching a death (s), it might to highlight the dangers of say, rip tides on a popular beach. And then the mayor might stop by and suggest the local paper tone it down a notch because, you know, tourism is king and you might ask if he has seen the movie Jaws to which he might pause and then say something very un-politician like. Every situation is at least a little different and many factors are weighed, even on deadline. Sorry Pete … rambled on, you of course deal with this everyday. But it is important for front liners like yourself to talk about this, and how decisions are made, because I think few people understand the tough decisions and true soul searching that goes on in the best publications every day.


    well put…thanks

  • Hmm, all posted pretty much same sentiments at the same time. Michael, as well you should!

  • Young Tom, yes well put… I never said or insinuated to look away and Joe, I certainly never said only tell good stories. I simply said these kind of photos, as you basically said of newsrooms should be treated in a certain way and considered very seriously . Sensational photos for their own sake is not news and not every story needs to be seen or read about just because it happened. I may be wrong here but as for the youth violence story, this guy doesnt look like a high school kid to me, maybe early 20’s. Who knows at any rate, I am just curious if there is a reason for this photo and what it is other than jumping out of a car shooting an exciting moment you came across and getting a “bloody good picture”?

    Michael, if the shot you submitted for the contest was the one of Obama with his finger up behind the shade. “nice moment”…

  • I would add that I believe poor perceptions of newspapers is due in large part to the media. That’s not as contradictory as it sounds if you break “media” down into respective genres. For instance, TV media, and most often local TV media, have focused more on serving the most base of human desires than on true community awareness and education. Or, to put it more bluntly and to quote what a multiple Pulitzer prize winning investigative reporter once noted to me his opinion that “they are just a bunch of whores.” Of course, newspapers themselves are much to blame by too often adopting a bunker mentality, or from just pure arrogance, isolating themselves from the public instead of truly engaging and educating readers on how they actually conduct their business, or how they could do it better. Or maybe simply because they cared too much about reporting actual news than they did about what they perceived as tooting their own horn. Either way, the great irony has always been that some of the worst organizations at public relations are newspapers themselves and this has led to great mistrust of intention. How far things have fallen in such a short time since all those college students went into journalism because of All the Presidents Men, when the greatest majority of people perceived the media as the fourth branch of the democracy.

  • Ross, good points for a good discussion :)) These are just the things we all should be talking and thinking about.

  • Young Tom you beat me to the punch… I was going to say well put, again…

  • Ross, it was that shot! Thanks. As far as the photograph of the person who was beaten it wasn’t a matter of jumping out of my car and getting a good picture! and it wasn’t exciting moment.. like i said in previous post! my first concern was helping the police get the people who did this senseless act! after on my way back to the scene i did take out my camera at make a photograph! i never submitted it to the newspaper! In this day and age we are bombarded with pictures of the rich and famous for doing nothing!!! our society is obsessed with Brittany?? that is disturbing to me!! Why? does this reflect on our society and whats really happening? If i was in a position to publish this photograph i would and as a result i probably wouldn’t have a job for long! There are alot of things happening in this world that we need to see and hear about but we dont because the media is afraid to offend its readers! i give us more credit and believe we want and need to see this!!!

  • I agree that there are many images that do not pass the breakfast test and are too gruesome to be published in the paper. Mainly because of the pubic outcry that would ensue.

    But that being said I think there is a responsibility to tell the story. Some feel that running a photo like this or of a grieving parent at an accident, fire or funeral is sensationalizing and only done to sell newspapers or magazines. In the bean counters mind that may be so. But I think as a photojournalist it is important to look at it another way.

    If a photo of a distraught mother at the scene of an accident gets the attention of one person who dives drunk and it prevents them from doing it again, then we have served a greater good. If a photo of a sad little boy at the scene of a fire that destroyed his home makes parents keep lighters out of reach of children who may play with them and burn down their home, then it serves a greater purpose.

    I have had many letters to the editor and phone calls to the paper asking how could we run a certain photo. But I seriously have never had a person in a photo or a family member ever comment negatively.

    DAH – I think it would be interesting to have James Nachtwey comment on this subject. As I said I have been in a lot of situations that are difficult to photograph. Many times questioning if I am doing the right thing. But I will never forget my reaction to watching one of the initial scenes in WAR PHOTOGRAPHER with James photographing a mother as they were bringing her dead son back to the village. AND HE WAS CLOSE!

    Now covering a war situation may be a bit different than covering a gang beating…. or is it?

    James talked about how the people in these horrible situations want their story to be told. They want the world to know what is happening to them.

    Here it may be a little different. Or it may not. But I do think that the responsibility of the photojournalist is the same… to tell the story as truthfully and as best they can.

    In answer to David’s question about contests vs newspaper responsibility, I will say that I NEVER shoot a photo thinking “DAMN THIS WILL WIN WORLD PRESS PHOTO! Actually I was never much into the contest scene until the last few years.

    I think that contests have two purposes. One, it helps to get your name and work known. Two, on your resume it shows prospective employers or clients that you have a track record of consistently producing good work (at least according to your peers).

    So other than advertising and making yourself feel good, they really have no purpose. They are all so subjective anyway. And truth be told, just the OPINION of a few judges.

    Newspapers have a responsibility to tell the story as best they can and within the bounds of what the community will tolerate. But remember since you can’t please everyone all the time, no matter what you do you will piss off someone.

    OK, I am not sure if all this made any sense. I do know I have not been as eloquent as Bob Black…. but damn I am ALMOST as long! (just kidding Bob)

  • “There are a lot of things happening in this world that we need to see and hear…” Yea but how much do we want to see, I am not sure being bombarded with these type of images everyday would enhance my life or even make it remotely pleasant. Sure one can search for them on the net to satisfy one’s needs if they are driven to to this need of exposure.
    On another note I actually like the image for its aesthetic values, the colours contrast etc. It’s a good looking theatrical image

  • “But remember since you can’t please everyone all the time, no matter what you do you will piss off someone.”


    Or … 50 percent of the people will be pissed off at you 50 percent of the time but that 50 percent is always changing!

  • exactly!

  • Powerful shot. My god. Crucifixion. Love the patterns of the bricks, the bit of graffiti. I must say that this photo’s power comes partly because it isn’t staged. I know there is a lot of debate on Burn between the ‘straight’ photojournalists and the ‘art’ photographers. Each have their power. This shot definitely has some documentary photography umph. wow.

  • Michael, your welcome, it was really a great shot…

    As for the photos of the rich and famous, from a photojournalistic point of view I would make the same argument. I cant stand that stuff either… Maybe even more…

    I think it’s great that you called the police and stopped the attack!!! However, you still haven’t answered my question. If it wasn’t exciting, which I find very hard to believe, What then was the purpose of getting the shot of the bloody guy upon returning to the scene? And, if this story of youth violence is so important to be told then why didn’t you submit it to a paper? And, why is it here submittted to BURN?

    Again, I am just curious because of my thoughts on this…

    After reading my arguments I can see I am treading on very thin ice. “Don’t shoot this and don’t shoot that the man say’s” is what may be interpreted about what I’m saying… It’s not. What I am saying is that for photojournalism purposes and informing people, very careful consideration should be used along with information and folllow up that continues to inform and help communities and the world for that matter. This is very difficult because it does go into opinions here and in newsrooms… However, no one ever said the choices we make are supposed to be easy and often they are made that way… Easily that is. “WOW” great image must be seen, print it… Why, what for is my question…

    Why did you take that picture upon returning to the scene?


    as a former journalist, would love to weigh in, put it’s great to sit back and read for once :))…keep it going….


  • This is one of the most powerful and sad pictures I have ever seen…It’s like a extrange and surreal image of a Christ in a cross made of bricks with his arms extended…exhausted and confused….horrible and graphically attractive in some way…difficult to take…probably more difficult to forget.

  • BOB R U Kidding??? I expected a novel over this one from you… Kidding, Kinda, LOL…

  • Ross :))

    i would LOVE to write….BUT…it’s time to let others. You guys have a terrific discussion going and I have enjoyed, a lot, reading and following the discussion, all sides….

    my role more now: get the work to Burn, keep the fires burning. You guys are keeping it stoked. It’s been great :)


  • Ross, Sorry! I get lost reading all the comments! the reason i took the picture is pure and simple! i was there and im a photojournalist!

  • Well, I guess there’s not much I can to say to that??? Very graphic shot, great timing. It made me think, Thanks!

  • MICHAEL – congrats on a very nice image. i hate to say that you were lucky to get this shot – but you were. with only 5 frames – you nailed it. nice job. i too think this would win a contest.

  • ROSS…

    i just cannot even begin to understand your question….or questions…

    you mean to tell me you question why Michael even shot the picture?? you Ross would have been there with your camera and not taken this had you seen it???

    i can understand that many photographers have no interest in any kind of news photography (i don’t), others would not want to intrude (i wouldn’t), and i can understand your concerns about how photographs are used or misused (i am)… but it seems to me that you would be eliminating the whole world of news photography period by asking the same question Jim Powers always asks which is “so then what?”…

    i think we could all say “so then what?” to just about anything anyone ever photographed……

    Ross, any way you look at it, this photograph has power…visually ..editorially….teen violence is for real…this is about as powerful and dramatic a photograph as i have seen for awhile as a representation of teen violence..

    when this picture came in , i thought it was a stage shot in its perfection….

    i wrote Michael and asked him if this was “for real”…i trusted him and ran it for exactly for what he said it was…. had this run in any newspaper, i am sure the readers would be buzzing just as much as we are here…

    i am not saying that you or anyone must subscribe to the tenants of journalism…of course not…but assuming journalism does in fact have a place in our culture, then i submit this photograph is very damn good photojournalism and even , as Imants says, transcends into “theatrical art” or visual symbolism beyond its use in journalism….

    it is far far far from a gratuitous picture of violence…..ever see the Luc Delahaye shot of the Dead Afghan Soldier??? if you do not know it, please know it….Michael’s photograph comes pretty damn close….

    on another note, please call week after next so we can go over again your work in Patagonia..i really enjoyed our last conversation and i look forward to your newest work…

    cheers amigo, david

  • I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, sent 18 years in the city and suburbs. Right when I left for college, a group of teenagers I graduated with, whom i wasn’t in acquaintance of, beat some homeless men downtown, killing one of them. For no reason, whatsoever. This sadly may be a trend occurring around the area with youth. As someone who frequently visits family, and growing up there, I always felt the decline of South Florida youth is rapid, and depressing. Even as a young kid I could sense it, I tried to stay on the good side of things.
    Sad, nostalgic and thought provoking image. I think it speaks volumes of what the youth of South Florida could be turning into.
    Unfortunately this happen to this man, fortunately you were there to document it. Hopefully change can occur.

  • So, I posted earlier about this, and now with a bit of free time later, I’ve found the most recent numbers I could about youth violence trends, with national statistics from the University of Virginia’s education department relating to school violence. Here’s the link: http://youthviolence.edschool.virginia.edu/violence-in-schools/national-statistics.html. The last numbers from the surgeon general I’ve been able to find were from 1999, but it showed pretty similar figures, though a somewhat strange analysis.

    Note: the overall trend of youth violence, IS DOWN. There is no upwards trend. There is a bit of variation here or there, but not nearly enough to warrant claiming that violence is on the incline. Does no one else find any problem with stating, in a newspaper, that youth violence is on the rise when in fact, since 1994, it has been in a steep decline overall? The University of Virginia states at the top: “Contrary to public perception, violent crime in schools has declined dramatically since 1994.” The reality is the exact opposite of what is stated. “it is apparent that the problem is growing not shrinking”—newspapers and media outlets are supposed to dispel incorrect public perceptions, not aggravate them.

  • David, I have shot hundreds of photos of dead bodies. Car wrecks, family violence, fires, suicides. Every one is a snapshot stored in my head, along with the screams of badly injured – and dying – women and children. It’s why I ask, “and then what,” so often. There was never any value in this kind of photo except to sell papers. It was wild and exciting when I was a young shooter. Careening around a city responding to a call on the scanner. Flashing lights and screaming sirens. Yellow tape that I could ignore because I had a camera and a press card. Looking for the great shot, the page one photo.

    But all of that is crap. Eye candy. “Great photo.” Forgotten by most people the next day. And then what? It’s easy to find and shoot photos like this. Our small county is full of child and spousal abuse. Drug deals gone bad. I can do it without blinking. But, really, what’s the point? Most people are busy with their own lives, families, kids, and this kind of photo is little more than a diversion.

    Our society seems violent because those are the photos we choose to show. Most people don’t beat other people, most people don’t shoot other people, most people don’t kill or steal or rape or beat their wives and children. But that’s not what our society looks like from the front page of a newspaper.

    Sadly, this image will sell papers. But then what?

  • DAH

    I definitely would have tried for this shot ten years ago… I would not now. Unless, I was trying to cover and bring some kind of light to the problems of violence, teen or otherwise.

    I never said a lot of things people are saying I’m said… I never said it wasn’t a powerful image and I never said it was a photo of gratuitous violence. I was asking questions as to why and what for this was taken. If was just because he was a photojournalist, FINE… However, there were statements made in the description about teen violence and no response about the photographers role in educating or using this image for a purpose. So… Its just a good graphic picture. Further, I personally am just not in line with photos being celebrated and awarded for good journalism if they are just great snapshots. Look, I am not a photojournalist, so I don’t subscribe to a lot of the reasoning photojournalists shoot what they do. I am more of an idealist tree hugging hippie type with a serious concern about human conciousness and why the world is spinning the direction it is. I think celebrating violence, even in the form of a graphic journalistic photo award must be done with great responsibility and for a good reason. As you said this photo could have been staged. I don’t think it was however, whats the difference if there is no purpose to it other than powerful imagery?

    Also, I will certainly be in touch, I’ve had a bout with the flu (not Swine) so I haven’t been too busy since we spoke. I do have a lot on the agenda this coming week. Thanks, talk soon…

  • JIM

    My sentiments exactly…

  • “Sadly, this image will sell papers. But then what?”

    Tumbleweeds Jim. Rollllling tumbleweeds.

  • My initial reaction to this was “this is why I don’t like walking around without something to protect myself”, followed by “this is terrible, what did he possibly do to deserve this? What happened?” There are several people I have known or worked with that were victims of violence. Myself I have had a gun pointed at me, I thought they were going to shoot us because we didn’t have any money, thats another story all together. This image resonates with me for obvious reasons, this guy has been severely assaulted. Questions arising in my mind have to do with debates about gun control, to what extent should people be allowed to protect themselves, questions on what is the right thing to do to deal with this problem. There are so many stories that we learn about involving teen violence, the group of girls that assaulted a girl over something that was said on her myspace page comes to mind. Very powerful.

  • Jim, I read your comment and it has me thinking as well. You are right that most people dont go around beating and shooting each other and that these kind of images are used to sell papers. At the end of the day, maybe it doesnt change anything but it definitely makes me think, I cant speak for anyone else. It is true that the media glorifies violence and sensationalizes in order to sell papers, or increase ratings etc. It is a sad statement and reflection on our society the kinds of things that sell media. Reflecting on my own comments, I hope that my initial comment doesnt give the impression that I am some kind of barbarian or meathead. I have concerns for my own safety sometimes when I look at things that go on.


    i like both of you…my conversations with both of you have overall been terrific…i plan to be having a beer with Jim on his back porch this summer and i am mentoring Ross by telephone as he works in Patagonia…..you both are being honest and i like honest…. and generally i try to be as diplomatic as possible, so in the context of all of the above, i want to be as diplomatic as possible AND disagree as much as i possibly can without going over the line into unwarranted attack which i deplore….so, we are cool..right??

    now, both of you make really good points sentence after sentence, and then come to completely the wrong conclusion IMO…or at least with a totally skewed vision of photography whereby a great photograph may have no value just because it may ONLY be great photograph….

    for example Jim says “it is easy to find and shoot photos like this”..OMG Jim are you joking? it IS easy to find and shoot SUBJECTS like this, but have you ever ever in all of your 40 years careening around town chasing ambulances made a photograph this strong?? i am asking you flat out..honest opinion and a link to your picture please!!! please Jim, please, a statement like yours just cannot go unchallenged…i mean the difference between taking a picture of a subject and taking a PHOTOGRAPH are two different things Jim….if you really really do not see the difference ,then so be it…

    for example Ross says ” i am not in favor of photo awards being given out for journalism if they are just great snapshots”…great snapshots??? what exactly are you in favor of??? at what point would you add MEANING to any newsworthy photograph??? at what point would you declare a photograph to be legitimately newsworthy??

    my theory is this…both of you gentlemen are bitter for different reasons..or, maybe the same reason.. i give you both high marks for your overall righteous attitude about the press and responsibility and using pictures the wrong way etc etc..we all believe in the morality of photography for the press as having significant responsibilities….but there is another undercurrent with both of you …and it manifests itself in not being willing to recognize a good photograph for its own sake..or at least without qualifying it with “and then what?”..yes, a good photograph for its own sake…sure photographs often “perform a function”, and for heavens sake, they CAN , but they do not HAVE TO…can you not step back and just look at a photograph as a photograph?? not as a representation, but as an object??? if your answer is no , then you are missing out on one of the great joys of visual stimulation and experience…too bad if that is not your pleasure…i would sincerely wish that you could or would…

    ok, nuff said….

    Jim, i hope to see you in either July or August if you are in Tyler County at that time….Ross, i just know you are going to do some groundbreaking work in Chile…fertile ground amigo…i hope we meet soonest…

    be of good cheer, david

  • I still believe 100% in my philosophical views with regards to celebrating and awarding the violence in media and imagery. However, I will admit the more I look at this image the more I can appreciate it as a powerful one. It is in fact just that a very powerful well balanced graphic image and certainly a moment.I still wouldn’t award it for that alone. It would have to have accomplished something as part of a larger story or series of supporting images. Whew!!! That was intense… Fun though… and yes David, we are certainly cool…

    I’m done with this one, I feel like the guy in the picture must have. Well not really.

  • ROSS…

    we are totally cool..the whole point of comments here on BURN is that we can respectfully have varying opinions about photographs..what they mean and their function… your statement above about the media awarding violence way too often is something that i totally agree with…i just see that as a separate conversation….

    now, i just have to sit and wait for Jim to hit me over the head with a baseball bat…..be sure to get the shot!!!

    peace, david

  • Kathleen Fonseca

    Wow, this photograph walks a slippery slope with me. And to think i can´t even see it! I had to google it and see it on a news site that featured a link back to Burn. So i ended up seeing it pretty small. Alas. It´s an incredible photograph. Truly. Artistic, powerful, perfect. And that´s what saves it for me because frankly, blood spilling from bodies on the street is something i have become regretabbly hardened to. And photos of bloodied bodies in the newspapers here..mmm..well, there are 3 papers. La Nacion is for the well-read and educated. They might feature a short article on the incident without a photo. I say ´might´ because the La Nacion has far bigger fish to expose than some man on the street getting mugged by teens. Unless the man being mugged happened to be one of the big fish. El Dia caters to a slightly more salacious reader and they´d feature a photo of the guy being loaded into the ambulance, already sort of cleaned up but still looking pretty traumatized. Then there is Extra that caters to, well, like taxi drivers and they´d feature the victim in all his bloodied gory..er, glory on one page and a mostly naked girl on the next. Still though, since the guy isn´t dead i can´t see Extra sending a photographer out for this. So this photo carries zero shock value for me because i can and have seen enough blood washing into storm sewers to support a blood bank. And yes, it does get repetitive and also oppresive. Sometimes i get seriously depressed by it.

    But, David, do i ever GET what you are talking about. This is one drop dead excellent photograph, only made more emotionally harrowing by the fact that it is real life. I don´t much care about the circumstances, in fact í´d rather not know. I want to wonder, to hurt, to be stunned and sad and awestruck and moved without being led by concepts like teen violence. Violence is violence for chrissake!!! And this photograph puts the exclamation point on it. Journalistically the photo is meaningless to me. This photograph has crossed over to the side of art. It would not sell me a newspaper. It would sell me a book.


  • Jim. “But then what?”

    What should one being doing nowadays?

  • a great photograph may have no value just because it may ONLY be great photograph….

    David… :-)))))))))

    I imagine all of us waking up in the middle of the night(s) in cold feverish sweats, wishing it was a nightmare that we’d be cursed with shooting ONLY great photographs. What a loss of life, of talent, of… Powers…. God forbid (and DAH-dy too!)


    PS: On the photo itself, I am still struggling with its composition. my eyes (and therefore me for now) find the body too cropped and downward in the frame. Also, if that is of interest to the discussion, prior to reading the note, I thought it was some kind of self-portrait or performance art. And yes, there is always the danger that a photo (this photo?) could actually be not news (or docu) enough, yes presented as usch

  • yet presented as such….

    (Typing on a french keyboard is so annoying)

  • This discussion has been a welcome break from putting together my little college magazine. (12 hours to deadline…, yet I’m reading burn, wtf?)

    I find it interesting that we’re worried about the media “promoting or celebrating” violence. We have good ‘ol Uncle Sam doing enough of that.

    On the other page (bullet catcher) we have two boys… Youths… being adopted into the military where they will be trained like dogs to commit atrocious acts of violence on command — and yet we wonder about… Youth violence here at home?

    I’m shaking my head at the connection being missed (or deliberately overlooked) by guys like Jim.

    “Couple of fine lads with a great future.”

    In what world?

    Sorry if this point has been made already, just scanned the comments.

    GREAT photograph. (and great discussion)

  • Herve, i love what you said! Made me chuckle. So True. Also great stuff exchanged here, i suppose it’s a conversation that’s long over due. It all makes me think there a horrible paradox in the photojournalism profession.

    for example, i wonder if medical surgeons like best ‘saving lives’ or if they like best ‘cutting human flesh’. Maybe it’s a bit of both. But all of the training and effort and successes and failures would seem to surround ways to better cut and sew human flesh, better ways to execute a procedure that by it’s very nature looks a bit counter-intuitive (cut open to save?), but of course that counter-intuitive sentiment defies reality and cutting ‘does’ save.

    i suspect if i were a spectator to a passionate discussion between surgeons and their work, they would ‘not’ be passionately discussing how they saved lives, or how many they saved, or what the saved person is doing now. They would be discussing the play-by-play aspect of dispatching that function, that procedure, the outcomes, and the decisions surround an actually surgery.

    But no one would ever condemn a surgeon to the level of a heartless butcher would they?

    so why is it then when photojournalists do their work, when they apply the skills they were trained for, skills they are qualified to dispatch, and skills directed in a meaningful way, why so often are photojournalist condemned as being vultures, sensationalist, predators, and opportunists?

    surgeons learn to cut us up with the benefit of saving lives. photo-journalist learn to anticipate, compose, and capture with the same surgical precision, with the benefit of providing information to us in the most concise captivating way, sometimes for the sake of news, some times for the sake of art, sometimes both. The best journalists appreciate the attention span of an audience and try to deliver a meaningful statement in the most efficient way possible.

    i think this image is very efficient in making its intended statement, if all images could make it’s intended statement this coherently we might not need as many words, words that support images that don’t really convey ‘any’ message, they’re just there as a very minor, bit part player in the communication effort.

    Some one should write a poem about how self-defeating it must feel to be a good photo-journalist, it should say the closer you get to excellence, the more likely you are to be called a monster by many of your peers.

    Anyway, Jim Powers i would love to see some of these images you collected that of the same visual calibre of this, i would like even more to see some of your images promoted on Burn :-) Ones that show the subtle difference between a ‘picture of something’ vs a photograph that has the potential for iconography.

  • like the analogy Joe.

  • joe: :))))

    Ok, SURPRISE, i break my silence….only to say:

    great great analogy…and that is IT in a nut shell…and one of the points that has often driven me nuts here and elsewhere when folk discuss pictures…particularly journalism…the point i tried to make in my original comment about a photographer (especially a journalist) sees through honed skills (the training in cutting) the value of moment, as both narrative/historical moment and metaphor, pics need both, humans need both (the importance of mythology and narrative in all our lives, photographic or otherwise)…and “so why is it then when photojournalists do their work, when they apply the skills they were trained for, skills they are qualified to dispatch, and skills directed in a meaningful way, why so often are photojournalist condemned as being vultures, sensationalist, predators, and opportunists?” is just spot on…

    thanks so much for…and i’ll work on that poem ;))…(actually done, just wait) :)))

    great stuff Joe…really, great stuff! :))

    (back to behind scenes)


  • DAH – i will call you today so we can follow up on our conversation. xo

  • Michael , first rate job and even more remarkable that the depiction of violence doesnt play a huge part in your work from what I can tell from your site , sound photographic instincts ….Instinct ? Hmmm I read a lot of 20 20 hindsighters with views on this picture that I think just don’t wash in the context of photography being an instinctual act not some long drawn out ,agonised ,discussion on wether or not michael shouldor , the moment is gone and you might as well take up painting, Michael your instincts on this one were spot on and your sense of composition remarkable considering the circumstances.
    Dude You nailed it!
    and here’s a few precedents that imediately came to mind of why this might be such an interesting picture for CHRISSAKE!

  • Jim shit, I really thought I was done here. Yes nice analogy but you have forgot the surgeon who is in it for recognition and money. I have had two pretty major surgeries in the last two and a half years on my hip (in order to avoid replacement as long as possible) The first surgeon was a world renowned guy who had a rep as the best arthroscopic hip surgeon on the plant. After my surgery he left to catch a plane (probably to a golf outing) withouit talking to me or my mother who was there with me. Further, For follow up on my surgery which had me on crutches fro two months I met with him back in Nashville for about three minutes and never got to speak to him again. Just his assistants… Oh did I mention my hip grew worse after he dug in there and did his procedure he was trained for… A similar situation with my new surgeon. It seems these guys see so many patients and are trying so hard to make a name for themselves in their fields that they often forget the patient.

    Sound familiar, photojournalist shoot a lot of photos!!!

  • Sorry, that response was for Joe and Bob… Ok I am done here now before I become a victim myself…

    Thanks all

  • JARED…

    i am laughing at the concept of you on your college magazine deadline, and then slipping over here to BURN….funny….well, send us a link to your magazine….one of the features i actually want to do here on BURN is a series on college photography….so , maybe we can work on that one together…obviously the future photographers are now in college, but are they really receiving any kind of preparation for what they will face when they graduate??? i think some art schools prepare their students very well for the gallery world, some do not…and same with the journalistic schools….sometimes i really wince when i wander into the academic world and hear and see what is being told to students…in any case, i want your opinions and the opinions of other university students…where are you in school??

    hmmm, thinking more…maybe i should take some of the funding that comes to EPF and create a special grant just for university students…worldwide….yes, there is the College Photographer of the Year competition, but i am thinking of something a bit more broad..besides, university students can always use some funding for tuition, books, and just a little extra to get going on a project…anyway, just thinking out loud…your thoughts??

    cheers, david

  • Holy shit! He’s doing well to still be upright. He is still upright, right?

  • JOE…

    nice analogy…having photographed a few surgeries, i can tell you the conversation going on while actually saving someone’s life or watching someone die , had nothing to do with either….emotional involvement may or may not play a part with what is actually happening…

  • for me, there’s something exalted about it.
    the agony and the ecstasy.
    it’s in the splay of his fingers, his flung-open chest, the rise of his chin..

  • DAH

    So Grey’s Anatomy is like real life??? LOL…

  • ALL,

    yes i watch Grey’s anatomy because it IS not real life. and it is actually hilarious. too much sex in the damned TV series, not like in actual life where one i suppose would not even get home to have an hour of sleep.

    and not all surgeons are there for fame and recognition and money… well, hmmm definitely big pluses but please no generalizations. and Ross i am sorry you had a bad experience but it is like calling all photographers “ALL for the money, calloused and insensitive WITH humongous egos”. generalizations are there because the big useless cynical crowd overshadows that one lone ranger…. hmmm. BURN is like the club for lone rangers i guess. all good points.. (ranting)

    i am not a surgeon or a photographer.

    but imagine this, opening up a 14 year old hit by a bullet to massage his heart to life… closing him up and watching him die right before your eyes… equal to the nightmare that i see each night, each time my memory conjures this damned picture a lot call beautiful…

    i hurry and pinch and punch myself to wakefulness

    happy pictures next? please?

  • … stray bullet… random gang shooting to prove another’s worth
    hit while changing a diaper, watching 3 younger sibs

  • strange good things can come from photographing violence – i had a contact sheet used in court by a man who´s arm was broken during an arrest once..
    still – the majority of violence i have seen has not been photographed simply because i was either breaking it up – as with a bottling in argentina, the focus of it – as with bottles being thrown at me in birmingham, or it would have been too inappropriate for whatever reason.

    it´s a great photo regardless of opinions and it´s clear that michael does not practice the social porn of chasing suffering like an extreme sport.. that´s the only kind of work i do not like.

  • Joe wrote:

    ‘Someone should write a poem about how self-defeating it must feel to be a good photojournalist, it should say the closer you get to excellence, the more likely you are to be called a monster by many of your peers..”

    Per your request Joe, I hope this will do … for now:



    I tried.
    Cursed spit saturates my skin
    strangely giving a wisp of air when it dries.
    I tried

    to make you see
    your humanity
    in the flies that feed on the dead baby’s eyes
    in the red slick trickling down your brother’s cheeks
    in the piece of heart you gave away reluctantly

    sensitivity, this thing i used not to have
    compassion that i champion
    not enough
    i am… strangely exalted in this tree
    from which you hang me

    in the drops of red slick on my shoe
    and in your deep blue intoxicated eyes
    i didn’t realize
    (you thought)
    the monster was me

  • Happy May Day everyone. So busy getting ready to leave on the road trip but I wanted to put in my two cents worth. Michael, I am totally captivated with this photo. It is an issue that is very close to my heart, teenage violence, due to my young grandchildren being in school and beginning to deal with bullies, etc. Here in Hawaii we have a lot of teenage violence, against each other and adults. It is a subject that needs to be on the front page. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and this wheel of violence the kids are spinning on must stop.

    Aside from the message, the photo is astounding. The color, composition, even the black streak on the wall. It speaks volumes.

    Excellent photo.


  • DAH

    Glad I could make you chuckle. As I’m under 3 hours and still have 5 empty pages, I better get back to it…

    I’ll definitely respond — just give me a few hours. :-)

  • I tried
    to make you see
    your humanity

    i am… strangely exalted in this tree
    from which you hang me

    i didn’t realize
    (you thought)
    the monster was me

    i like best those lines :-)


  • for you Joe,

    and for the rest of you who think your pictures matter

  • and for us civilians

    who feel the photographers matter more

  • Bravo, Gracie.

    ’nuff said.

  • Ugh. Just cannot get over the Christ-like silliness. So overdone. So unoriginal. I am very skeptical about it all. Sorry, can’t help it.

    Why is he standing? Didn’t he just take a beating? It was remarked earlier that he was just barely hanging on to those bricks. Why isn’t he just sitting down? Did he pose himself this way? (as someone suggested) Did the photographer? Yes, I know he says he didn’t. He also says he never thought of the Christ bit until someone in here mentioned it. Yeah… OK.

    There is no shortage of idealists in these pages. Unwilling to say a negative thing. Unwilling to question anything. But I am just constitutionally not able to look at a photograph like this and not think it put on. Am I too cynical? Maybe. But Panos is right, this would make a great Judas Priest or Ozzy Osborne album cover!

  • Uggh, Michael my friend. I can completely see and imagine how this picture would naturally come to be. But rather than debate this or that and all the wherewithal about what your first inclination is after you just got pounded, I’m just so … disappointed, surprised and saddened really by some of the reactions to … what just is … and frankly the relentless questioning of the integrity of those who go out there every damn day and work their ass off for next to nothing because they believe in what they do. How far it has all fallen.

  • Yeah… I hear you Tom. But please know that I don’t relentlessly question the integrity of photojournalists. Far from it. I respect them greatly and am in awe of many of them.

    I wavered about whether to post my gut reaction to this photo… after my comment regarding Jukka Onnela’s essay, I knew this certainly would endear me to many in these pages. But it was my reaction. Can’t deny it. Probably should have kept it to myself.

  • …would NOT endear me…

  • “There is no shortage of idealists in these pages. Unwilling to say a negative thing. Unwilling to question anything.” I think it is called self protection among one’s own peers……….

    “Ugh. Just cannot get over the Christ-like silliness. So overdone. So unoriginal.”……I am sure a fervent Christian could see the image as martyrdom of the common man…………the same overdone caper can be said for sunsets,speeding police cars, dark images with text, dead people, shot people , people who should be shot, people who want to be shot etc. ………. the list is endless.

    Photographers should know better that once the image is placed into the public arena they cannot dictate what the audience makes of the image. But we do and become defensive from what we consider unwarranted attacks,thus a post image shit fight occurs.

    ps Once the bricks get photo shopped out it will be a better album for the new Wee Willy and the Wet Boys album cover who do take their music seriously. Anyway I have half a bag of popcorn, a kilo of cocaine,three Russian blowup dolls and a B rated soft porn movie to get through……..please turn the light off

  • I welcome all comments good or bad! Burn gives us a forum to agree or disagree on the aesthetics of photography! we all see and capture our world with a personal vision. I do not take offense to any comments that suggest this was staged or composed intentionally to look Christ like, because i was there and know the truth in this photograph! I trust my instincts and wouldn’t do anything differently. I look forward to posting more photographs and projects in the future. Cheers, Michael

  • “because i was there and know the truth in this photograph!” Defensive authoritarian stuff like that doesn’t hack it with any audience all it does is alienate them. Better to let it go and let the image sort itself out …………..

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