The death of Lance Cpl Joshua- M Bernard (c) Julie Jacobson

As per usual I got a heads up from a friend in Australia to look at something. With the poor connection here  I don’t bother surfing much due to the hours spent trying to maintain a connection to the server. This has probably been seen by most, but I include it here as the debate that surrounds it has been fascinating (if not familiar).

This photograph, made by Julie Jacobson (Associated Press)on 14 August 2009, has raised hackles in the USA. Criticism of the decision to publish the picture across various media is easily found. The photograph shows Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard lying wounded in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

He was on point when his patrol came under fire. The ambush included RPG rounds, one of which mortally wounded Lance Corporal Bernard. The shrapnel amputated one of his legs on impact, and badly injured the other. The two marines shown attending him applied tourniquets and administered first aid in an attempt to save his life.

The photograph was shown to both Lance Cpl. Bernard’s unit and his family. His family requested that the image not be published.

The picture was released after the funeral of Bernard.

The debate seems to centre around the family’s request that it not be published. Obviously the back and forth is at times heated and sometimes introduces much more emotion than any engagement of the core debate. The fact that the US Secretary of Defense jumped in early raises the stakes some.

I encourage all readers of kisim piksa to do a little looking on this one, to dig into the idea of publication, the role of the photographer and the idea of censorship on request. There is a lot to this, and I will not fool myself into thinking that I could flesh it out here.

3 Responses to The death of Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard

  • Pen says:

    You need to be teaching Philosophy and Ethics!
    What has interested me so far in my reading around this is how many respondents in fact found the photo of Lance Corporal Bernard in his dress uniform in front of the American flag more poignant and confronting than the field photo. One may wonder then what the extra value of the field photo becomes? Gratuitous? Political? Voyeristic?Self-serving?
    The immediacy of decison-making today is also a factor. I can well imagine the family’s at-first negative response to the publishing of this photo may well change as much as their journey in grief will vary for the rest of their days.
    I’ve included an internet site below on an ethics/aesthetics debate in photojournalism that I thought is somewwhat connected.

  • Jason says:

    It is a very difficult subject that will not have a conclusive answer. From my minor experience I saw a house fire that the occupants were lucky enough to escape. Others were snapping away, including images of the owners/occupants and their distress. Even armed with camera I could not bring myself to take any images, no matter how moving it was. For some reason I did not enjoy and did not want to capture their sorrow as I felt I was invading. Guess I could never be a photographic journalist, just stick to trying to do landscapes.
    One thing is definite about an image like this is that it does raise debate on many fronts, along with emotions. To that end it may have achieved what the photographer was after.

  • Hempe says:

    As much as I cringe on occasion when I read her work, Susan Sontag’s book ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’ brings some interesting things to the table.


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