It’s a dark day in Portugal. A huge fire hit a central region of the country and the worst happened. Because a part of my family was caught in the fire, my objectivity to talk about this situation is absolutely compromised. They are all alive, and that is what matters today.
This is a blog about photography and that’s what I want to focus on here. It also helps pass the time, as the fire is far from being over and people are still trying to escape this hell hole, with so many roads blocked. Yesterday, while it was all happening, the media was giving little information about the real tragedy of the situation and what could be done. At one point during the night, while my young nieces and nephew were hidden in a mill, protected by my sister-in-law, the three Portuguese news channel were talking about football. That is unacceptable! When there’s an attack in France, in England, in Belgium, they can’t talk about anything else, so why did they take so long to start doing their jobs yesterday, when the fire started in the beginning of the afternoon?
But today is the aftermath and all the news channel and newspapers are now flooded with videos, photographs and comments. Last week, when all those lives were lost in the Grenfell Tower fire, I was once again shocked by the way the media was dealing with the event. I was particularly shocked by the way a certain photograph of the burning tower was being showed. As I see it, this is the spectacularization of death. Behind those orange glass-less windows there are lives being lost. That smoke is not only the sign of a burnt out building…
The same is now happening in Portugal. The media keeps showing the same image of a road filled with burnt cars, where more than 20 lives were lost, while people were trying to escape the fire. Inside those carcasses, lives were lost, burnt to death. The tragedy of that reality seems to me to be, again, made pointless, when one shows and repeats this sort of imagery. The reporters, not satisfied with showing the outside of the cars, try to picture inside, to show the car seats, the remains. What is the point of this, I wonder? They create slogans, they call it the “estrada da morte” (death road) as if this summary made things more abstract and more bearable.
The following photographs are from a well-known Portuguese photographer, Adriano Miranda, for a newspaper, Público. As I can understand them, today, they are a good example of this pointless “need” to give a visual dimension to something that should not be reduce to “an image”. This tragedy, as so many others all over the world, doesn’t fit into a series of images. Why this recurrent “need” to do this, I can understand… I particularly reject these images of the burnt animal bodies. Is as if he’s photographing them from above, because he can’t do the same to human victims. Is as if they’re objects, occupying the place of something else (those human victims). It’s so obscene… There’s no informative value in them. If you write that lives were lost, and do not illustrate that news with the images of the cadavers, why do that with animals. Have words been deprived of their informative value?
As I’m writing this, I’m once again forced to cut this short. The fire is rekindling and lives are once again at risk. In one of the news channel, I hear a sign of hope as one young journalist states that the worst account they’ve heard so far, of this tragedy, was not recorded in images, as a sign of respect for the lives that were lost…