F8 and be there?

August 22, 2009

Reuters reports “A Malaysian Muslim woman who will be caned next week for drinking beer has defiantly asked that the punishment be carried out in public in a case that is fuelling debate about tolerance in this multi-racial country. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno will be the first Malaysian woman to be caned under Islamic laws applicable to Malaysia’s Muslims, who account for 60 percent of the 27-million population.”

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno chats with her son (R) Muhammad Azfar, 7, and daughter Wann Kaitlynn Sari Dewi, 5, at her father’s house in Sungei Siput, about 300km (186 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia’s state of Perak, August 21, 2009.  REUTERS/Zainal Abd Halim

If Kartika is caned in public would you as a photographer (if it were up to you decide) go to the event and take pictures of this mother of two being beaten? And if you did how would you shoot those pictures, wide and in close, so close you could hear the crack of the cane on her body and hear her cries of pain? On a longer lens from a distance, more detached as a person but shooting tight pictures that you know will give the viewer every painful detail of the punishment? Or, finally, from a distance on a wide lens to show the crowd surrounding the scene? And once you have shot those images how will you edit? Would you sanitise them and not file the pictures that show Kartika suffering the most or would you feel that everyone should see what you had photographed, knowing that a morning daily family paper may not even use that image?

Sometime next week these are the decisions our editors and photographers in Malaysia will have to make.


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There has been far too much emotion and guessing of facts. Malaysia as you say in your article has two basic religious groups and the set of rules or laws that apply to Muslims and will see Kartika caned, do not apply to anyone other than those of the Islamic faith. What other country in the world does not thrust its religious beliefs on the rest of its people as Malaysia retrains from doing? I would suggest not many! Even in the Western world, eg the USA and UK, we have laws that were born out of the religious beliefs of the majority and have absolutely nothing at all to do with common sense and ignore the beliefs of the rest.In the case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno the facts are theses, she chooses to be a Muslim, she knows the law that applies to Muslims, she knew she was breaking the law when she drank beer at that bar, and she knew the consequences if she was caught. She has quite publicly stated that she knew she was doing wrong, and that she had “just been unlucky to be caught”. She has since then again quite openly and publicly stated that she had done wrong and totally appreciates that she must be punished.In this we again we seems to have a lot of emotion and guessing driving the story. We have read statements by the authorities saying that she may be caned sitting down which seems the height of impossibility, I fail to see how she can be caned across the bottom when she is sitting on it! But recent statement s now say that she “may” be caned sitting down which probably suggests that she will not. I think the authorities have been very careful not to over dramatize the event and have probably chosen some well thought out words to quell the enthusiasm of the press who seem to be hell bent on beating this up into something its not. In the words of the Sharia authorities, she will not be caned like a criminal under the criminal justice system, she will be caned in the same way as ” a naughty schoolboy” would be caned that is no more severe than that used in most English schools for many years. Now that is a far cry from what the press are reporting, or should I say second guessing. The simple fact is that Kartika will not have her bottom bared as criminals do as we have read in some reports by over enthusiastic reporters, she will be “caned like a naughty schoolboy” which means she will simply have to bend over and be caned across the covered buttocks. Now unless anyone can prove otherwise, then I think we should accept that this is the degree to which Kartika will suffer and no more.If as a Muslim she chooses to be caned in front of the press so that other Muslims learn from her mistake, then she should alone have the right to decide that, not the authorities or the “do gooders” in society.As to what should be photographed when she is caned, or how it should be photographed is simple, the press needs to remember that they have both a professional and a moral responsibility to simple record the event, photograph her being caned, write the facts, and let society be the judge and form their own views and opinions.

Posted by Julia Kensington | Report as abusive

Assuming that a foreign photog is permitted to attend such an event, I’d be inclined to get in close with a wide-angled lens and, if the position’s favourable, capture the subject’s expression of pain/defiance/bewilderment juxtaposed upon the crowd’s reaction. A photog might achieve the same from afar using a long lens but, imo, lacking the proximity, he/she’ll not really capture the the drama of being up close. I can well imagine that the visceral impact upon the photog who’s within earshot would be invaluable for annotating the pictures, too. Kartika wants to make a statement by being publicly punished. To ‘sanitise’ the event would be a let-down to both her and the spirit, indeed purpose, of documenting the event. As for the morning daily family papers: it would be unfortunate to have to edit out parts; however, it’s better to edit out than to not have fully captured the event in the first place. It would be important to note that editing, in this case, does not mean tampering with the truth – at most it might involve blanking off elements considered upsetting for the squeamish.That’s my take. What do you think?

Posted by Ken Owen | Report as abusive

I am not a journalist or a professional photographer but I certainly wouldn’t title the post ‘What makes a great picture’ unless I utterly failed at comprehending a subtle sarcasm. But since the question has been posed and alternatives scarce, the pictures must focus on the people executing the punishment, all bystanders and us (photographers) who will all witness this.

Posted by Abhi | Report as abusive

http://thetravelphotographer.blogspot.co m/2009/08/pov-reuters-blog-f8-be-there.h tml

Posted by tewfic el-sawy | Report as abusive

What beer brand she drunk, knowing about consequences if she can be caught? Heineken (or others) – it’s your chance for viral ads campaign..

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

[…] © Zainal AbdHalim/Reuters-All Rights Reserved Reuters Photographers Blog has a post on a Muslim woman who is scheduled to be caned next week in Malaysia for committing the […]

Posted by The Travel Photographer: POV: Reuters Blog: f8 & Be There | duckrabbit – we produce beautifully crafted multimedia | Report as abusive

[…] © Zainal AbdHalim/Reuters-All Rights ReservedReuters Photographers Blog has a post on a Muslim woman who is scheduled to be caned next week in Malaysia for committing the […]

Posted by POV: Reuters Blog: f8 & Be There | Guska.net | Report as abusive

“Sometime next week these are the decisions our editors and photographers in Malaysia will have to make.”Well, it’s not exactly a tough decision is it? You go, and you take photos of what you see. That’s it. Simple. If you sit there deciding whether or not to make it more/less dramatic, more/less emotional, more/less anything, then you might as well stay home and knock something up in photoshop.If ever a photo should say “This is what I saw and this is how I saw it” then it’s a news photo. Your heart tells you how to take a photograph, not some desire to satisfy your own artistic ego. Tell it how you see it and let people make up their own minds without adding the spin.

Posted by Ian Furniss | Report as abusive

Julia Kensington wrote:In the case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno the facts are theses, she chooses to be a Muslim, she knows the law that applies to Muslims, she knew she was breaking the law when she drank beer at that bar, and she knew the consequences if she was caught.———————————————–Do a quick google and you will see that for all Malay Malaysians, one simply does not “choose to be a Muslim”. You are born Muslim, and if you want out, it’s either you are “imprisoned until you repent”, or you get out of the country quietly (for if you do not, they have no choice but to kill you under Sharia).

Posted by Malaysian | Report as abusive

Hoe fotografeer je het?…Als fotojournalist word je geacht de waarheid weer te geven. Maar hoe doe je dat? Welke keuzes maak je? Bij Reuters vragen ze hardop af welke keuzes jij zou maken als je de stokslagen van de Maleise……

Posted by Rood Petje | Report as abusive

Why would a woman drink beer? Most women hate beer.

Posted by cloud786 | Report as abusive

It is utterly heartbreaking that u must make those decisions that something like this is taking place in our world…those of us not living with these restrictions on our actions need to be thankful everyday for our rights and freedoms… I’m sure there are a million people to be caned in this country… if drinking one beer was cause…you need to showcase this woman’s suffering to shed light on the conditions facing those who have no choice in their religion… that is what our country was founded for… freedom from religious persecutionpeople need to see the pain caused by the act… to realize it is wrong… this woman in these photos looks as though she could be anyone you pass on the street… but because of where she was born she is punishd severely

Posted by Melissa | Report as abusive

Dear EditorYour coverages with this woman!s photos are excellent.Every body knows about their countries laws,rules and regulations of behavior in public placesWe will talk all are equal.But only in paper.Each country have a separate laws on minority communities.Even though,This South East Asian nation have multi racial societies,but she can not go away from any written,known Muslim rules and regulations on dress,life and style,methods of worship.Here,She has chosen an adventurous path for troubles and for publicity.

Posted by krishnamurthi ramachandran | Report as abusive