We live in a digital age, where streaming video rules the day — but old-fashioned still photography nevertheless has its place. The picture of poor Omran Daqneesh proves it.
Omran is the five-year-old Syrian boy who was buried in rubble when an airstrike by Russians or the Assad government (no one is quite sure which) caused his house to collapse. After the being pulled from the wreckage, Omran was taken to an ambulance, where he sat quietly, waiting to be treated, when the now-famous photograph was taken. His older brother, also pulled from the ruins, later died of his injuries. Omran survived.
It’s a powerful photograph, indeed. A five-year-old boy sits, dazed and lost, in an orange chair. He is a small boy, and his feet barely extend out past the seat, much less reach the floor. His arms and legs are covered in dust, and his face in particular is caked with dark soot. One side of his head is covered in blood and the eye on that side is swollen partially shut. His eyes are open, but he appears to be staring into nothingness. His blackened face and vacant eyes paint a brutal picture of silent desolation. It’s one of the most compelling pictures of the impact of war on children that’s been taken in years.
Photographs can change the storyline and turn public opinion. The famous photograph of a young Vietnamese girl, naked, screaming, and running from a napalm attack, helped to turn American public opinion decisively against the Vietnam War. Perhaps the picture of Omran Daqneesh, which has garnered worldwide attention on social media, will help to focus the world’s attention on the unfolding tragedy in Syria, where for years civilians have been desperately trapped in a civil war that has produced death and destruction and seems no closer to ending now than when it began.
During Omran’s five years of life, he has known nothing but war. Now his house is destroyed, his brother is dead, and his family has been torn apart by a conflict he can’t begin to understand. It’s not what childhood should be.