Who is the man in the brown jacket?
Benazir Bhutto's assassination in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, December 27, 2007
Confusingly, six news outlets featured one emotional individual --an adult male wearing a brown jacket--in many positions, directional orientations, and locations across the grisly, body-part strewn scene. No captions identify the man's name or explain who he is in relation to his posing with both the living and dead.
Please see our interactive map that organizes and illuminates images from media coverage--including Getty and AP-- of the post-Bhutto shooting scene (Benazir Bhutto's assassination in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, December 27, 2007). Please go to the password protected web page and enter the password into the pop up.
If you click on the photographers name, you see their multiple positions in the scene. Citizens can readily follow the conventions of text-based comparisons and news analysis across various media outlets. For photography, a confusion of images can typically exist. A single iconic snapshot, in the case of this Bhutto tragedy, for example, is truly inadequate for readers. The emotive man, fixed in what appears to be moment in time, falsely suggests, that the fraction of time captured by the lens was truly rare in its immediacy--suggesting the very seconds after the explosion were depicted. However, multiple images reveal that the man in the brown jacket (BJM) reactions were not just one moment in time, position in space or the "luck" of one photographer. A noteworthy amount of time was lapsed and multiple distances transversed, as multiple photographers captured him. The overall set of images that resulted needed to be placed in relationship to each other in a map of the location in order to begin to understand the scene. The web allows this new kind, and I think important, news analysis.
The set of photos themselves reveal that BJM is not a symbol of a moment in time as we readers thought. A significant time passed.
The AP's time stamps are published but can not be relied upon in this case. Simply put, they are grossly wrong. We know there could not have been 5 hours of time in between the AP shots. However, this is the information they published (please see below). Bhutto was shot approx. 5:15 pm. Photos numbered 25 and 26 in our interactive map clearly show darkness was falling. The photos had to be limited to in between 5:15pm and time of night fall. We only know this through deduction-- not the AP time stamps --and it is still fuzzy information. Readers deserve accurate time stamps.
So were the AP photos taken over 20 minutes; just under 2 hours or 5 hours? They published all three times.
The captions do not help us. Despite being on scene a significant time, no one got BJM name. The AP's captions states as fact that "A supporter of Pakistan former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto mourns deaths of his colleagues after a suicide attack in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007. " Did he, in fact, know any of the victims and the amount of emotion suggests?
1. In summary...We have completed our analysis and have formed an interactive map that charts all the Brown Jacket Man photos (BJM) at the site of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, December 27, 2007. The fixed locations of the debris and victims, allows us to see where and what the BJM was doing as well as the approximate locations of the photographers.
Please go to our Flash map and roll over & click each number to see each photo. Click on human icons to identify living and dead victims.
Enter password and ID in pop up box
(NOTE: The map is programmed in Flash; so you should not have a problem..but please let me asap know if you do..)
2. AP publishes time stamps for the public and customers to know the exact time when photos were "created." In the case of their BJM photos, even though all photos state the same time zone (GMT), and are by the same photographer, their published "creation" times do not make sense. Below are the ID information for each AP photo. I needed AP to verify their time stamps to confirm how much time elapsed between photos. (They answered it was too much work). It would be very strange, and suggestive of staging, if 2 hours did, in fact, elapse in between photographs as is now indicated by their erratic time stamps. See list of photos and "creation" time stamps below.
3. AP's caption states as fact that "A supporter of Pakistan former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto mourns deaths of his colleagues after a suicide attack in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007. " There is no name identifying the man. As a reader, I needed clarification, about what appears to be a factual claim, that he, BJM, knew some or all of the victims. He "mourns deaths of his colleagues." Did BJM, in fact, know any victim? If so, who were they to him? This is important information to know. Since he goes around, among the victims in general, it does not seem, from any of the photos, that he necessarily knew anyone in particular. Why was he featured by so many photographers over so long a time period?
1- 4 below all credited (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)
1. Image ID 07122705584
Creation Date Thu, Dec 27th 2007 1:53:20 PM GMT
20:05 minutes TIME ELAPSED BEFORE next shot , number 2.
2. Image ID 07122705744
Creation Date Thu, Dec 27th 2007 2:13:25 PM GMT
1 hour :57:11 minutes TIME ELAPSED BEFORE next shot, number 3.
3. Image ID 07122707902
Creation Date Thu, Dec 27th 2007 4:10:36 PM GMT
5 hours :13:52 minutes TIME ELAPSED BEFORE next shot, number 4
4. Image ID 07122705254
Creation Date Thu, Dec 27th 2007 9:24:28 PM GMT
Last shot, number 4
If AP is going to publish time stamps , shouldn't the public trust that they are accurate? This, and the other question about the caption, I hope you agree, are worthy subjects and AP answers will help advance scholarship and ethics in the photo journalism field.
Contributor: Rhonda Roland Shearer
Director, Art Science Research Laboratory
62 Greene Street
New York, New York 10012