After the stir caused by The New York Times’ response to my question about why it hasn’t published any pictures of Hamas fighters in Gaza (“Our photographer hasn’t even seen anyone carrying a gun“), Times photographer Tyler Hicks elaborates.
James Estrin of the Times’ photography blog, Lens, put the question to Hicks directly:
Q. We have many photos of the casualties and destruction in Gaza. Why don’t we have many photos of Hamas fighters or missiles?
A. This is a war fought largely behind the scenes. Hamas fighters are not able to expose themselves. If they were to even step a foot on the street they would be spotted by an Israeli drone and immediately blown up. We don’t see those fighters. They are operating out of buildings and homes and at night. They are moving around very carefully. You don’t see any signs of authority on the streets. If you can imagine every police officer, every person of authority in America gone, this is what that would look like.
If we had access to them, we would be photographing them. I never saw a single device for launching the rockets to Israel. It’s as if they don’t exist.
Sometimes people assume that you can have access to everything, that you can see everything. But the fighters are virtually invisible to us. What we do as photographers is document what we can to show that side of the war. There are funerals, there are people being rushed to the hospital, but you can’t differentiate the fighters from the civilians. They are not wearing uniforms. If there is someone coming into the hospital injured, you can’t tell if that’s just a shopkeeper or if this is someone who just fired a rocket towards Israel. It’s impossible to know who’s who. We tried to cover this as objectively as possible.
Hicks doesn’t address the question of why the Times didn’t photograph Hamas officials at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, which by all accounts was used by Hamas as a base of operations during the conflict.
This is the second Lens interview on the Gaza conflict in a week. In a July 29 interview with Sergey Ponomarev, the freelancer who has been working for the Times in Gaza, Ponomarev said his routine of taking photos was: destroyed houses, hospitals, funerals — then more destroyed houses.
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