It’s remarkable that photos can so effectively convey moments of extreme pain, joy, suffering, and horror. Whether it was the mushroom cloud that ended World War Two, the screaming naked girl covered in napalm during the Vietnam War, the picture of the little girl in Ethiopia, so thin you could see her bones while a vulture lurched ten feet away, or the photo of the Syrian boy who washed ashore dead, these have done more than any words ever could.
These photos, like many others, have been able to put a face to a tragic situation. Rather than seeing conflict, famine, or despair in words and writing, there they are now in the flesh, in color for everyone to see. All of these pictures have a way of touching people like words never can and never will. The people in the photos, by their looks, by their cries, look into our souls and ask “Why?” “Why is this happening?”
We see our daughters, sons, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who, just for a split second, despite their different skin color or different religion, we see as our own, because we know that we are responsible for their pain and suffering. And though different languages exist and we cannot always talk to one another, an image of a starving, desperate, dying girl is the same in Ethiopia, in Japan, in Italy, in England, in the United States, in Brazil. Images sear through language.
A picture is worth a thousand words