Waiting for words…

Posted: May 28, 2015 in Current Affairs, History, Politics, Stuff
Tags: , , ,


Waiting for words…

epa04101663 An undated handout picture made available on 26 February 2014 by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) shows Palestinian and Syrian residents of Yarmuk Palestinian Refugee Camp crowding in a destroyed street as food is distributed, in Damascus, Syria.  EPA/United Nation Relief and Works Agency / HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

I’ve been staring at a photo released a while ago by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). I’ve been doing this every other day or so for quite some time now . It’s a shot taken at Yarmuk Refugee camp, Damascus. If you’re American, that’s in Syria, which is in the Middle East. Men and Women – Palestinians (and no doubt Syrians now, too) are queuing for food in a street devastated by the conflict.

They are orderly, static, unmoving – yet they appear as a river, a torrent of humanity coursing through the destruction of war.

The reason I’m staring at this photograph is that I’m waiting. Waiting for words.

Imagery often has the power to move us, and in the above instance – for myself at least – I am reminded of that singularly iconic image of the horrors of modern warfare: the young Vietnamese girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, napalmed by South Vietnamese forces in 1972. TrangBang.jpg

AP photographer Nick Ut took that now infamous shot which won him a Pulitzer and changed both his and Kim Phúc’s lives. In a way it changed many of our lives, too. Certainly mine. It’s an image I will carry with me to my grave. I still cannot hear or read the word, ‘Vietnam‘ – even on the now ubiquitous holiday adverts for that very country – without my mind conjuring Nick’s image of Kim Phúc. Oddly, the resolution seems only to sharpen rather than diminish with age.

I’d have dreaded being asked to pen a by-line for it – wouldn’t you? What words would you use? What words would suffice? What words could do justice to it? How long would you wait for them to arrive?

I fear my inadequacy as a writer would be held bare for all to see.

Perhaps there really are no words to describe such an image? Perhaps the image itself is all that is needed?

I’d just about come to this very conclusion with regard to the UNRWA shot – possibly to excuse my own failings: The more I stared at it the more I knew I didn’t possess the words, the skill, or the imagination to write anything that could possibly accompany it. Doomed to simply stare daily at the incomprehensible savagery of it all.

Defeated and feeling somewhat inadequate, I went to close the image-viewer for the umpteenth time. As I did so the wires pinged on my screen with the headline “Tony Blair resigns as Middle East Envoy.”

At that moment I knew that the image didn’t need a description, it merely required placing its instant – its moment – into its wider, greater context.

Nick Ut had The New York Times to position his shot left and centre to the heart of the Vietnam conflict. In our age of information overkill the UNRWA image seemed lost. Waiting for words that would never come. Not from me at least.


Tony Blair resigns as Middle East Envoy“.

It said it all.

Anvil Springstien.

Note: This became more of an article/post than the intended quick-link from the front-page News section to the Tony Blair resigns as Middle East Envoy post. As such I moved it here

Click HERE for the UNRWA image – full-screen

Click HERE for the Blair resigns… post

Thumbnail image © Nick Ut / The Associated Press 1972

UNRWA image © United Nations Relief and Works Agency 2014

Both images are used under ‘Fair Use’ rationale. No copyright infringement is intended.


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