Violence Against Women Should Not Be Awarded

  • By: Tasha Buzzell
  • Target: Clyde Mueller, President, National Press Photographers Association
Photograph by M.Urban involves anonymous female being sexually assaulted, chosen by NPPA as best domestic news photograph, will be reproduced on the NPPA web site, published in NPPA Photojournalism book. Image must be removed because counterproductive to educating about sexual assault.
Dear Clyde Mueller -

As your public, we request that you discontinue the use and proliferation of this image of violence. Its proliferation does continued violence to women. We request, on behalf of the woman in the photograph who did not have the opportunity to defend herself, that your organization discontinue use of the image. Listen to us, as you have failed to listen to her.

The following questions are not intended to be harassing, hateful, etc. The questioning format is used specifically because of its potential for provoking discussion within your organization.

1. The decision of whether or not to publish this picture of a naked woman being violently attacked was not made by the woman who has legal ownership of her personal body. Indeed, she remains anonymous, her face obliterated by digital imaging, her breasts airbrushed out of the picture. Why, if trying to teach about violence, or be what your organization calls "thought provoking," is this woman being made more of an object, made faceless, made into an anonymous conglomeration of genitalia being attacked? Why, if trying to teach about violence, is your organization proliferating a record of sexualized violence through its release of the photograph? And how, because she does not have a face or breasts, is the photograph somehow made less offensive?

2. According to the NPAA's By-Laws: "The National Press Photographers Association, a professional society dedicated to the advancement of photojournalism, acknowledges concern and respect for the public's natural-law, right to freedom in searching for the truth and the right to be informed truthfully and completely about public events and the world in which we live." What truth is the NPAA teaching with this picture?

3. Do you possess the moral authority to use this image for your own purposes, whatever they may be? (Jennifer R. Holladay,

4. Regarding issues of censorship: How, phenomenologically, did a language about this picture develop? How is it rationalized that if the photographic agent removes the woman's face, he is removing & protecting her identity? Is the true message censored, that violence occurs to an actual person every time it occurs?

5. Who benefits from this picture? Who pays a price for it?

6. How do we create, in our own minds, a difference between the photographer who paused long enough to record this episode of violence, and the videographer who also paused long enough to record this episode of violence? What is the difference in the use of the image, since once it leaves the hands of the person who recorded the image it can take on a life and meaning of its own?

7. What violence are you doing against sexual assault victims removing the woman's face? Does that send a message that being a sexual assault victim must mean being ashamed, silent, and permanently anonymous?

Regarding the aforementioned questions, we request formal responses to the basis of the questioning. We hope for a formal retraction and comprehensive apology.
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