Perhaps this dilemma also is one of the strongest arguments for journalism: The people who organise images selecting them and give them a context (caption), have a name and MUST stand up for their level of information or lack of information. If they take their information seriously, they also place these gaps open for everyone to see.
For four days he had fought through the wilderness, tells the 55-year-old farmer Yahaya Takakumi. He tells of endless rows of dead people that they had been killed. Takakumi is one of the first witnesses of the massacre, the Islamist terrorists (Boko Haram) to have committed in northeastern Nigeria. Rumours of the massacre, in which supposedly around 2000 people were murdered there for days, but has so far neither the fact nor the extent of which will be proved. There are no pictures, no live connection, no WiFi, no tweets.
The Nigerian government speaks of 150 dead, including terrorists. Somewhere 150-2000 is then probably what we call reality. It does not matter which of the two poles it is closer, because the number of victims determines the extent of coverage. This not only sounds cynical, there it is. In a time when at the centre of a european capital people can be calculated and blood murdered in blood cold by insane idiots, or cruelty in civil wars extent the imagination of average people only to be misused for propaganda by war mongers and children can be forced to serve as “living land mines” (suicide bomber), then only the casualty figures allow such thing as a classification of events that are otherwise elusive in their monstrosity.
We need pictures to believe. But we can also trust pictures? A photo can not be objective. Even the presence of an observer affects a situation. It shows a section of a snapshot. It tells with what it shows, but also with what it leaving out, a story. And it is only a fragment. The other parts the viewer completes, quite unconsciously, with his own knowledge, with its opinion.
The South African photographer Kevin Carter made in 1993 in Sudan a photo of an emaciated toddler, crouched motionless behind a vulture. The image is regarded as one of the most shocking documents on hunger in Africa.
Carter was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for this image. But then the image was highly controversial and several versions had arisen. How far was the aid convoy, - a few meters? Was the vulture scared off? Was the child rescued? A year later, the photographer committed suicide. He was not able distance himself from the horror of his work and the fact he was making his living from horror, Carters friends said.
No matter how the image is created, it has certainly helped to sensitise the view on poverty in Africa. If the effect of a photo is worth to let circumstances and authenticity of the particular sujet in the dark we as photographers are on the wrong path! The question of truth is not only a key differentiator of philosophies, this question is also being answered by those who are either convinced that they are constantly being lied to, or imagine themselves in possession of the truth. The most impressive images of crises and conflicts are almost always the most controversial whether this are pictures of very, very questionable murderous shooting of demonstrators on Kiev’s Maidan or poison gas attacks in Syria.
Having written all this is because there have been several collegues asking why I do not work on hard news and I guess it is because I do not bother too much when I see what is being reported about this so called ISIS, ISIL or "Caliphate". We have left the path in 2003 as embedded reporters and buried independent journalism in Egypt, then Libya and Mali to get stranded in Syria and this is why there is ISIS.