Photo of fallen Arizona firefighters riles the sensitivity police

On Sunday, 19 firefighters died battling the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona. The firefighters were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, part of the Prescott, Arizona Fire Department.

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On Thursday, a photograph* of the 19 bodies, draped with American Flags, was posted on a Facebook page commemorating the deaths of the 19 firefighters. The image shows the scene where the firefighters lost their lives. After the bodies were placed in body bags, an honor guard draped each one with a flag.

At this time, it is not known who took the photograph or posted it to the Facebook page. No one has come forward to take credit for the image or the posting. Within hours over 1000 people shared the photo through Facebook.

The posting immediately stirred controversy on social media. Many claimed the photo was insensitive- what ever that means. Evidently the news media had a different take, as USA Today and azcentral.com both published the photograph on their websites. A search revealed other news media, including television, used the image. Evidently, the controversy did not stop these news entities from using the photos.

This is a powerful image. It is an image that tells a compelling story. It is an image that respects the fallen firefighters with dignity and honor. If it was a better quality image, taken by a professional photojournalist, it could even be a cover story for a magazine or a journalism prize winner.

It is an image taken and posted by a coward. Only a died in the wool coward would post an image without accrediting it to him or her self. If you do not want to take the heat, or suffer the consequences of your actions you have no business capturing, posting or publishing images on public sites like Facebook. If you are a public employee, prohibited by known policies and procedures from taking photographs and/or publishing or posting them, then you have no business demonstrating your smartphone photo skills while in the employ of the tax payer.

I took crime scene photographs for fifteen years. I never kept any. Not one. They were not mine to keep. They were evidence and the property of the Chicago Police Department. I could have kept a roll or two of film for each scene to publish a book or sell to publishers who put out forensic investigation text books. I never did. They were not my photos to keep or disseminate.

There is a healthy debate in the photojournalism world over capturing certain types of images. Some photographers claim they would never take images that shock or" shock the conscience". Good for them. Me, I would take any and every photograph I could or am allowed to take at any kind of scene. No matter how gruesome, I would be shooting away.

The real issue is whether the photographs should be published. That is a different question altogether. That issue us up to editors and media entities that purchase photographs and video. Images are supposed to tell or complement a story. If the purpose of the image is to complement a story about gruesome murders, than one or more images could be used. For example, images of mass hangings or beheaded bodies that are published in the Mexican and some border area news sites show the brutality of the Mexican drug cartels.

Publishing an image for the sole purpose of shock value without any underlining compelling reason is not sound practice. Shocking images should have a strong compelling story that moves people. Unfortunately, our world is populated with busybody social media lynch mobs who cry foul over the tender sensitivities of some- whoever they are- being offended. They rage, foam at the mouth, and create Internet havoc and mayhem in the name of "sensitivity", again, whatever that is.

These busy body lynch mobs are as bad, if not worse, than the political correctness terrorists who spend their lives searching for so-called inappropriate vocabulary and language. These people do not understand the concept of free speech, free expression, or freedom of the press. They live in their own little world finding offense and insensitivity, then throwing nuclear bombs around until the so-called offensive or alleged insensitive material is censored.

This particular image is not shocking, insensitive, or offensive. It is respectful. It shows honor and dignity. It is powerful. I could only find one thing wrong with it. I was not there to shoot it.

*Note: The image is a screenshot from azcentral.com. It was cropped to remove extraneous information and personal details from my screen.

 

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