Opinion

David Rohde

Will a billion ‘selfies’ cause us to miss history?

David Rohde
Dec 18, 2013 19:32 UTC

This week, Ron Haviv described to me the first time one of his photographs changed history.

The acclaimed war photographer was surrounded by his life’s work, which is now on exhibit in New York’s Anastasia Photo gallery. At age 23, Haviv took a photograph of supporters of Panamanian dictator, General Manuel Noriega, beating the country’s recently elected opposition vice president.

What is striking about the image is not just the crimson blood covering the man’s shirt. It is the Panamanian soldier standing a few feet away — doing nothing to protect him. The photograph appeared on the cover of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. Months later, President George H.W. Bush cited the riveting image in his speech justifying the U.S. invasion of Panama.

“All of the sudden,” said Haviv, a longtime colleague and friend, “I had this understanding that the work I was doing was going out into the world and creating and causing a reaction. It helped cement my desire to do this for a living.”

A quarter century later, photography is our predominant means of communication. Dizzying technological advances allow a mind-boggling number of images — half-a-billion a day — to be shot and posted online. Yet the emergence of the Web and smartphones has made it harder than ever for photographers to earn a living.

An American intervention gone partly right

David Rohde
Apr 27, 2012 12:27 UTC

SARAJEVO – Seventeen years and $17 billion later, Bosnia is at peace today, but it is stillborn.

After an international intervention nearly two decades long, Bosnia offers lessons for American officials as they wrestle with continuing violence in Syria, volatile post-Arab Spring transitions and leaving behind a relatively stable Afghanistan. Stopping the killing here proved easier than expected. But halting corruption, sparking economic growth and curbing poisonous local political dynamics has proved vastly more difficult.

Today, the economy is stalled, with half of business activity generated by state-owned companies and unemployment hovering at 25 percent. The country is divided between a Serb entity whose leader talks openly of secession and a Muslim-Croat federation with worrying rifts of its own. And corruption is endemic among senior government officials on all sides.

At the site of a European massacre, fears of genocide by ballot

David Rohde
Apr 20, 2012 14:30 UTC

SREBRENICA, BOSNIA — Six months from now, a municipal election will be held in this isolated mining town, the scene of the largest massacre in Europe since World War Two.

The town’s current mayor, a 33 year-old Bosnian Muslim, says the election will hand Bosnian Serbs control of the town and complete the “ethnic cleansing,” or removal, of all Muslims from eastern Bosnia. Serbs say it is democracy, plain and simple.

Seventeen years ago, Serb forces executed 8,100 Muslim men and boys here in the largest single mass killing of the war in Bosnia. The U.S. and its European allies – who had declared the town a U.N. protected “safe area” – stood by as the Serbs rampaged for days in the summer of 1995.

  •