It is rare for me that I go to an event just to attend it not on assignment. But on Sunday I was invited only to attend the launch of a mobile phone. But just after some time I had reached, I got a sms from my editor that said ‘huge fire near nardevi, 2 casualties’.
The photographer instinct on such situation is leave everything and rush to the place. I did the same. I asked a fellow photographer to drop me. We followed narrow alleys as it started to drizzle. We reached the accident place following narrow roads as showed by the locals.
As soon as I got off the bike, I took out my camera and rushed towards firefighter trucks shouting “press” to the police. The fire had already been extinguished. The first thing I saw were the dead bodies laying on the ground between two firefighter trucks. They were wrapped in bed sheets.
At these times, you take shots of first thing you see. I started taking pictures of those dead bodies. It wasn’t the first time I was taking photos of dead bodies. There have been situations where I was in the middle of 19 dead bodies shooting. But it is always pain to shoot dead people. But at these times I am always aware that these photos should not be disturbing to the viewers.
As I had started shooting I heard a voice saying “Dai laash dekhaidinu ta” (Show the dead body clearly). The police personnel removed the bed sheet that had covered the bodies for the ‘clear’ shot as requested by the cameraman. Television camera-persons started shooting the dead bodies. And, I took the above shot.
In the past few years there has been fierce competition among media in breaking news and reporting exclusives. But sometimes I feel that with that competition, television channels specially, seem to forget ethics and self censorship. There were plane crashes in the past in Kathmandu. The viewer got to see the dead bodies with watermark saying ‘exclusive’. That made most of the viewers disturbed for a long time.
Whenever such disturbing images or videos are broadcast, first, the media has to be aware of what they broadcast or publish. Second, viewer discretion warning has to be given.
In the incident at Nardevi, three people died. I got the ‘clear’ view of the burnt bodies. But I didn’t file any pictures that I thought could be disturbing to the viewers. I think pain of such devastation can still be delivered to the viewer through images and videos without any disturbing content. All you need is some sense of ethics, self censorship, commonsense and a lot of respect.