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You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “a photo is worth thousand words.” No where is that more true than when it comes to refugee photos…
The heartbreaking photos of a 3-year-old drowned Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, have finally woken up the world to the Syrian refugee crisis. Going viral the same day they were published, Sept. 3/15, the photos have shocked and outraged many and been used in different ways by those on various sides of the dispute.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has employed them as propaganda to threaten Syrians seeking refuge outside the country. Politicians in Canada and the US — where national elections or nominations are imminent — have been using the photos to shame their opponents or differentiate themselves. (Even Donald Trump has said the US should “possibly” take more Syrian immigrants. And Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been widely criticized for his perceived “heartless” stance on refugees.) Socially conscious individuals have been using the profile of the photos to raise money and profile for better immigrant support.
It amazes me what these images have accomplished. Nothing pulls at heartstrings faster than sick or dying children. Our instincts are always to protect the young and helpless and when that’s not possible we feel a natural sense of revulsion and a desire to do more.
If you do a Google search on the terms “refugee crisis” you now will be linked with dozens of stories all about Syria. There is no mention of Somali refugees, Eritrean refugees, Angolan refugees, Burundian refugees. I’m not going to play the game of “who has it worst” or which type of refugee is more deserving of support. They are all tragic stories and they all need help.
What interests me is how a single photo can galvanize not just a nation, but the world. It makes me wonder: Should I have become a photographer rather than a writer?