Two articles, “Four-year-old cruelly slashed” (The Times 20/07/2010, p. 5) and “School pregnancy shock” (Sowetan, 21/07/2010, p. 7) gave MMA reasons to be glad. While the articles in The Timesand Sowetan were not perfect, the photographs published alongside them were examples of how images of children do not have to violate their rights to be powerful.
The first article tells the story of a 4 year old boy whose genitals were cut and hair shaved in an attack by two other boys from the neighbourhood. While the journalist made the right decision not to identify any of the children involved in this incident, the location was revealed, which could make it possible for the boy and his family to be identified by their community and others.
However, the photograph that accompanied the article was an excellent example of providing powerful imagery without jeopardizing the safety or exposing the identities of those being photographed. In this photograph of the father holding his son, the angle, framing, composition and lighting ensure the father’s eyes have been cut out of the frame and the boys face is covered by a shadow and positioned in such a way that it’s almost impossible to identify him. Despite this, the photograph retains emotional impact and is artistically compelling. This shows that photojournalism doesn’t have to be graphic, shocking and most importantly include the faces and identities of those pictured, for it to capture our attention and convey a clear and powerful message.
The second article investigates a spike in teenage pregnancies at a high school in Mpumalanga, where 70 girls out of a total of 290, are pregnant. While one of the teachers and villagers quoted in the article suggest there is a direct correlation between the increase in teenage pregnancies and the availability of the government grant for the mothers’ babies, the journalist rightly challenges this assumption by referring to research which has shown there is “no positive link between child support grants and the trend of teenage child-bearing.” By doing this the journalist demonstrates critical and objective reporting while challenging the stigmas associated with teenage pregnancies. Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity here is that access to the school and the pregnant girls wasn’t fully utilized. What would have added depth to the article is if the journalist had interviewed and given a voice to some of the pregnant girls and explored their perspective on the situation.
Here again the photograph published alongside the article is an admirable example of an image capable of conveying a message while keeping the identity of the person hidden. In this photo a young woman’s torso and pregnant belly are pictured with her face cut out of the frame, concealing her identity.
Photographs like these are examples to all photographers and journalists that quality and substance isn’t necessarily compromised when the identities of their subjects are obscured. This ensures the media maintains a high level of worth, while guaranteeing the privacy and safety of those pictured is in no way abused.