The imagesThe sights and sounds of Bucha, Ukraine are almost surreal.
A quiet residential street filledWith smashed and burnt war machines, one appears to have almost melted into pavement near a street sign pointing to the supermarket.
Civilians searching desperately For those who have lost loved ones and don’t know how to start. In this chaotic house of charnels, anyone can be anywhere, anywhere or nowhere.
A Russian tank turret lies in an open fieldThe tank was covered in smaller pieces, a testimony to the unimaginable violence that had been inflicted upon this town.
A colorful schoolyard playground smashed and shreddedBy artillery shrapnel
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, places the civilian death toll at Bucha more than 300 people. Many of the victims were tortured first. Some of the bloodshed occurred as Russian forces attempted to restart their shambolic invasion by retreating from the region around Kyiv. Spokesmen for Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied the accusations, calling them a “hoax” and claiming the killings took place after Russian forces left town, but an analysis of satellite imagery shows that many of the dead had been lying in the streets for weeks.
The worst may yet come, according to some. Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, spoke on Ukraine’s national television network on Monday. “Venediktova saidThe number of victims in Borodyanka, around 23km west of Bucha, would be higher than anywhere else,” reports the Guardian, “but did not provide further details.”
“We can speak of Kyiv region because yesterday we got access to these territories and are currently working in Irpin, Bucha, Vorzel,” said Venediktova. “In fact, the worst situation with civilian victims is in Borodyanka. I think we will speak of Borodyanka separately.”
Most of the photos revealed to date were taken in war zones by journalists who braved the elements to capture these truths. They needed to tell you and me what had happened, and they did it like any good journalist working under duress.
Joseph Galloway, widely considered the “dean” of war correspondents by his peers until his death in 2021, first confronted combat in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam in 1965. He described the experienceTo NPR’sTerry Gross
Men near me fell over after being hit with a bullet in their heads. It felt right to be as close to the ground and as comfortable as possible.
When I felt the toe of a combat boot in my ribs, and I sort of turned my head and tilted up and looked, and it was the battalion sergeant major, a man 6’3″ tall, a big bear of a guy. He bent at my waist and shouted at me. I was shocked by what he said. He said, sonny, you can’t take no pictures laying down there on the ground.
And I thought about that for a moment. And I realized he’s right. I can’t do my job down here. And the other thing that crossed my mind is I think we’re probably all going to be killed. And if that’s the case, I’d just as soon take mine standing up anyway. So I got up, and went about my business.
Bucha has joined a long list of places where horrors have been visited upon the innocent, only to be exposed by the journalist’s pen or the photographer’s eye. My Lai and Srebrenica, the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya, Rwanda, or the Disappeared of Argentina. Bucha is distinguished by the speed at which the story of its plight goes global.
“Bill Clinton regretted he did not respond to the murders of Tutsis in 1994,” reportsPatrick Wintour is the author Guardian, “saying he did not ‘fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which [Rwandans] were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror’. Srebrenica was not the culmination three-year-old ethnic cleansing. My Lai, two years after the event, provided additional momentum to an already existing US anti-war movement. Caroline Elkins, a Harvard historian who documented the scale of British repression during the Mau Mau rebellion, did so decades later in her book. Britain’s Gulag.”
It was different this time. The world was rattled by the work of the journalists in the Ukraine war zone this week. We hope they will remind us all about the human cost of war beyond its political implications.
It is possible to use war photography, for ill — to whip up nationalism, xenophobia and militarism. It can be used to bring humanity back into the picture and illuminate the human toll of mass-violence.
Resistance can be caused by documentation.