Witness an accident, take a photo?

We drove past a road accident the other night.

One car slightly smashed, one motorcycle standing on its handlebars (wheels facing the sky), one motorcyclist lying on the road, barely conscious, one person holding him.

It was causing a bit of a traffic jam. Vehicles were slowly moving around it.

Seeing this from further away, I had whipped my camera out instinctively. But, almost at once, I asked myself: Why the hell do I want to photograph someone’s misfortune?

I tried to find justification. Newspapers do it all the time. Blogs do it all the time. CNN and CNA and BBC and whatever, they’re full of it. It’s about sharing. People want to know what’s happening around the world, around them.

But it made me feel evil. Like I was capitalising on someone else’s misery. And to what end? To show off that I witnessed an accident? To have an interesting blog post?

When we inched nearer the scene and I saw the hurt motorcyclist looking like he was in pain, I felt terrible. I couldn’t bring myself to start snapping away. It just felt wrong, for reasons that eluded me.

I made a half-hearted attempt to snap a quick picture, telling myself to stop being a prude, but I didn’t take the time to focus and hold the camera steady. The picture turned out too blurry to see anything. I deleted it.

I put my camera back into its pouch.

I guess I could never be a journalist.

Well, I think it’s not entirely wrong to take photographs of and report on disasters. Sometimes it’s for a good cause. Publicity could help people in trouble. Or, perhaps, people need to see such things to remind them to appreciate their lives more.

I suppose it disturbs me that accidents or tragedies might be used purely to sell more copies of a newspaper or to attract more visitors to a blog. It makes voyeurs of readers.

Not that I claim to be a saint of any sort. If, one day, I were to witness a four-car-pileup on a highway, I would take a picture because it’s not every day you see a four-car-pileup.

What I can’t do is take a photograph of a human in pain. It just feels like a terrible, terrible thing to do, unless doing so could actually help the suffering person.

I guess I’ll just have to stick to blogging about cute kittens and other inane things.

25 thoughts on “Witness an accident, take a photo?

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    yah.. esp when almost gadget we owe comes with a built in camera that makes it so easy to snap a photo, in the midst of this.. we loose ourselves to technology.
    I do not know if you feel it but I feel compassion is a disappearing virtue in our this cruel but realistic world…sob sob :( but Q.Y, I salute you for your sensitivity, Goonfather .. u there, I want to say u are one lucky guy :)

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    Well when I’m Serving NS in Police Force. Have seen dead body so many time that I feel a bit numb. There once I was ask to guard a body and wait till the black van come and collect the body away. I’ve waited for about 5 hours. Luckily there’s another regular officer with me. But so far so good all I’m seen is in one piece. The worst is normally those from fatal road accident, one week after drown or jump from tall building because you’ll never know where he/she will land into.

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    Well… having been someone who has taken pictures of numerous accidents for the press I can tell you that it’s not pleasant, but it has to be done. Journalists need to report on all aspects of life, death etc and it is often unpleasant. I used to hate having to bother grieving relatives, but the public want it and we supply it.

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    I studied journalism, and the first lesson that I learned was — “People are inclined to the bad news”. Bad news sells, that’s why we see it a lot. :D

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    I don’t like to take photos of accidents, think I might haunt my memory but I’ve to say that I’m always fascinated by accidents and have to look each time I drive past one. Greyee thinks that I’m one of those that cause traffic to slow down because I’m so busy looking at the accidents.

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    Journalists are basically recorders of information and are also history writers, whether of good or bad news. Months and years later that picture would prove to be a historical record.

    Fact is we take the good for granted. But that doesn’t mean we don’t report it. Fact is, the bad sells more newspapers, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t report it just because it sells. This blog doesn’t depend on bad news to sell. But it does records truth, facts and opinions. The truth has happened; you witnessed an accident. A picture may speak more than just your mere words, hence we take pictures. This is just the basic purpose of recording. A picture of a tragedy is not in itself a bad thing, especially if you see yourself as someone who records truthfully — be it good or bad — not someone who merely sells a blog address.

    My two cents, hope you no longer feel bad over the picture. ;) You didn’t have to take the picture, but even if you did capture it, it is not a bad thing if you have the right intentions. If there were no photographers/videographers to capture pain, where would we have records of wars like World Wars, in Iraq, Vietnam, and maybe even today very little would believe that what happened in Myanmar recently really did happen.

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    I think just do whatever you want. Afterall, its your blog and an outlet for you express your opinions. But yah, I think I’ll agree with you. I will never attempt to take any photos of any accidents.

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    Starstruck: Well, it’s take a compassionate person to recognise compassion and mourn its lack, so I guess you also have a lot of compassion in you. Salute back! ;)

    kormmandos: Hiya, long time no see! ;) Actually, I don’t know much about her death. I thought it was over-sensationalised and I didn’t want to follow any of it. Heh.

    JayWalk: Wah, you witness accidents everyday?? What does that do to your psyche, I wonder.

    JokeDiary: Oh gross. I would have being in a job where I have to look at dead bodies all the time. :(

    Jesta: Yeah, I recognise that tragedies and accidents have to be reported. I guess I just feel that it’s wrong for a random casual blogger like myself to do it. :P

    misha: Morning, dearie! :)

    modchip: Hmm, I guess you’re right. Are people sick, or what? lol.

    Monster: Aaaaah ok, you’re one of the sick people. Haha. I guess it’s human nature. I also like to look when I pass by accident sites.

    Chilli Crab Cat: That’s a great post. Thanks for your illuminating words. It does make me feel better about having the thought to take a picture and blog about the accident. :) Thank you!

    serene: Thanks for the encouragement! :)

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    What I can’t stand is reporters who interview relatives of those who died in tragedies & ask retarded questions like “how do you feel?” Oh I’m delighted my hubby just kicked the bucket. DUH!! How do you THINK she feels??

    And what’s the point of airing footage of them crying their eyes out? Does that make the dead come back? Oh sure, tell me you’re trying to tell a story. I don’t buy it.

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    Ya, I was praying very hard, please don’t let me met those gross body. luckily my prayer is answered. I still remember the first day I was attach to a police post. Another NS man ( Who share the same rooms as me during the training days ) was attach to the station FRC kana a maid jump off from building. Wah dame suay.

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    Derrick: Yeah, I know what you mean. Some questions are really senseless and insensitive. When I was a journalist, I stayed clear of the news desk, preferring to deal with more lighthearted stuff in the features/lifestyle desk. :P I totally cannot bring myself to interview grieving people!

    JokeDiary: Wow, you’re “lucky”, I guess! I would really hate to see a jump suicide case. Eek.

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    I have made a note that no matter wat, I won’t take a picture of living people driving cars or any car accident.

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    Ya, If you see. that’s not the worst. Worst is you are the most junior there. Sure got bully. Those senior sure ask you go there take out all the personal belonging. Wallet, ring, chain etc….. Check all the pocket. argh……..

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    QY, there’s once I saw a grey rx8 which I find it very nice, so I took a pic then send it to goonfather.. scarely goonfather says the owner of that grey rx8 went missing and few days later after I took that pic, he was found dead inside his car..

    so goonfather said i was like one of the last person to take a pic of the owner, while he was still alive..

    I got totally freek out by this… so tat why I decided not to take anymore pics.. this is juz like those Jap Horror Movie!

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    Wang Wang: Oh… yeah I think I heard about it, but didn’t know you were so upset about it. Just a coincidence lah. :P But I guess I know how you feel! *hugs*

    JokeDiary: Yeah, of course. That’s human nature. Well, somebody always has to do the dirty job. :P

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    hmmm.. its normal to feel sad for others to watch a accident… but if u put the picture u took in the STOMP… more pple can get to knw wat happen.. =)

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    Sorry about the late post – I don’t travel the blogsphere much.

    As to your question, It’s because you are human. You felt his pain. You were connected. It is what makes us human. That connection….

    More to the point though, It is because you live your life vicariously. Sure, you feel you are in the middle of things but it is his pain, not yours – but yours none the less because we all feel the pain. Have you ever seen an animal run over by a car *as it happens*? if you can answer “so what” then quit reading now.

    As to the pile-up, well, we all get lost in the enormity of life. When it was just him, you could not do it. You were connected. When it was them, you could. You can’t connect to them. Ironically they call it group think. When you can’t think without them thinking. Goggle Orwell’s 1984 double think – yes, I know double does not equal group but in the world of google, they relate. How is that for a social commentary?

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    StraBe: Hey, it’s never too late! :) Thank you for sharing your comments even though you’re an infrequent blogosphere traveller! Well, whatever you said sounds logical, so you must be right! Although I got a bit confused about the last part. I’ve heard of group think, but not double think. I’ll google it one day when I’m not so busy. :P

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    the sad thing here isn’t taking the picture. It’s the masses who want to see others pain that makes this whole thing sad. People in this world want to see death and destruction in real time. Just spend a few hours in the Washington Capital Beltway and you’ll see people rubber necking at an accident scene just to get a glimpse of others pain.

    Sad :(

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