Allan, S. (2014) ‘Witnessing in crisis: Photo-reportage of terror attacks in Boston and London,’ Media, War & Conflict, 7(2). Online first.
The importance of bearing witness to what is transpiring in harrowing circumstances is a lynchpin of war and conflict reporting. More often than not in recent years, however, the person first on the scene with a camera has been an ordinary citizen, if not one of the combatants themselves. Accordingly, this article explores a number of pressing questions confronting news photographers – both professionals of the craft and bystanders offering improvised contributions to newsmaking – committed to relaying what they see unfolding before them, however disturbing it may be. More specifically, the discussion focuses on two crisis events recurrently characterised as ‘terror attacks’ in the US and British press: the bombing of the Boston marathon in April 2013, and the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, southeast London, the following month. Drawing on a visual analysis of the photo-reportage of these attacks, the author examines diverse forms of citizen witnessing and their potential to reinvigorate photojournalism’s social contract to document conflicting truths.
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