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.