Interesting take on the much heralded photograph by Spencer Platt, winning image of the World Press Photo awards (thanks for the pointer Joerg).
When it originally appeared in the press at the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, but even more so since it won the WPF awards, this picture has been variously described along the lines of "rich young Lebanese sightseeing in a bombed out neighbourhood", "rich Lebanese Disaster Tourists" along with, at times, commentary on their "obviously" inappropriate dress for being in a conservative neighbourhood and so on.
Here, for example, is part of the Photo District News take on it at the time the awards were announced:
"The picture shows a group of five cavalier Beirut residents cruising in a red Mini convertible through a neighborhood that has been reduced to rubble by Israeli bombs."It's a picture you can keep looking at," said World Press Photo jury chair Michele McNally, assistant managing editor for The New York Times, in a statement announcing the prize. "It has the complexity and contradiction of real life, amidst chaos. This photograph makes you look beyond the obvious.""
Spiegel has a somewhat different take on it in - "Catering to a Lebanese Cliche":
"We're from Dahiye, from the suburb, ourselves," Bissan explains on a hot February afternoon in Beirut. She, her 22-year-old brother Jad and her 26-year old sister Tamara fled the neighborhood during the Israeli bombings. They stayed in a hotel in the safer district of Hamra and did what most Lebanese did at the time. They waited. The siblings met the other two women in the hotel, Noor Nasser and Lillane Nacouzi, at the hotel. Both are employees of the Plaza Hotel and were allowed to stay in vacant rooms during the war.
On Aug. 15, the day of the ceasefire, Jad borrowed a friend's orange Mini Cooper. For weeks the siblings had heard nothing about whether or not their apartment block was still standing -- now that the fighting was over, they wanted to go and see for themselves. Jad drove and Tamara rode shotgun, while Bissan squeezed in between the two friends on the backseat, holding her camera phone ready. "We spoke briefly about whether we should really open the roof," she told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "But it was so hot, and there were five of us in the small car, so we folded it back."...
Bissan admits that, at first glance, her excursion must look like a prime example of disaster tourism. "But look at our faces. They clearly show how horrified we were, how shocked," she says. "We were not cheerful."
...She has told journalists that her apartment was badly damaged, with all the windows broken and the furniture crushed by shock waves from the bombs. More at this link
Daryl from PDN sent a link to further article I missed on their site Award-Winning Photo Puts Subjects On Defensive which adds a bit more.
Now, what was that about "looking beyond the obvious"? This is certainly a good example of the ambiguities inherent in photography in general and photojournalism in particular (and which, imo, are actually at the heart of what makes photography work)