Picture Gaza: How Non-Western Photo Agency Captures 7 Days of Conflict

July 14, 2014 | Eugene Reznik

Anadolu, a nearly 100-year-old news agency operated by the Turkish government, has a team of photographers and regional stringers in Gaza documenting the aftermath of Israeli airstrikes. The airstrikes are now in their seventh day, with Palestinian casualties numbering over 174 killed and 1,100 wounded as of this morning. This most recent outbreak of violence follows the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month, and the retaliatory burning alive of a Palestinian teenager. Andalou’s photos, which are syndicated on the Getty Images wire, offer a non-western perspective on the larger Israeli/Palestinian conflict which many claim is perpetual victim — more so than most — of one-sided media coverage. The striking image above seems to refute the idea that Palestinian casualties, today at least, go undocumented by professional journalists. With its wide frame, it also contextualizes much of the gory imagery being shared, appropriated and misappropriated by activists on social media.

Turkish society has deep ties to the Western world — as a long time member of NATO — as well as the Middle East, with many nationals seeing themselves somewhere on the cusp. To some extent, this is what uniquely qualifies the agency to tell the story of today’s crisis in Gaza. However, it is nonetheless a state-run news agency. States have agendas and Turkey’s current administration isn’t exactly a champion of free press or democratic ideals. Despite the fact that Anadolu generally has tremendous resources for frequently solid coverage of breaking news in conflict zones around the world, it’s governmental affiliation gives reason to hold some of their imagery to a level of suspicion like one would bring to a handout photograph, let’s say.

The agency is not exactly impartial on the topic. Their simultaneous stream of freelancer-filed anti-Isreal protest photographs from nearly every continent seems to authorize the picket signs and reveals their editorial line. This is not to say they should suppress it, but it does suggest they are more inclined to work with freelancers who have activists affiliations and conflicts of interest in the topics they are covering. These affiliations are easily tracked today through photographers’ and stringers’ activities on Facebook, which might raise questions about the provenance of certain images and their potential genesis as polemic.

For this reason, unlike previous posts in ANIMAL’s series looking at photojournalism from the Getty wire, I’ve chosen not to highlight the work of any single photographer in particular, but to give an overview of some of the most compelling and nuanced images coming from a single agency. Some of the more graphic imagery of dead and mutilated children, which is readily available online, I’ve also chosen to omit. In certain cases, I question the journalistic integrity of going to a morgue to make pictures — where the photographer knows exactly what he’ll find and where the subject can’t exactly refuse to be photographed — especially if the contact sheet shows a lengthy process of trying to get the best angle. As much as we want to reveal the atrocities of war, these images are often generic (see thisthisthis and this, which really reminds of this controversial World Press Photo winner) and ineffectual in the long run. We look away when we see a child’s death exploited, appropriated as an argument or idea.

ANIMAL previously featured the work of photojournalists Mario Tama covering Brazil in the lead up to the World Cup, Kevin Frayer covering India’s massive general elections, Brendan Hoffman covering the crisis in Ukraine and more. Click through on each photo for extended captions.

(Lead Image: Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images; Caption: Eight more wounded on July 8, 2014 during Israeli airstrike on Gaza, taken later to the hospital in Gaza City.)