ICE blogs

July 22, 2008

picturing racism

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, photojournalism — news_editor @ 9:39 pm

An image from an Italian beach of two dead Roma children surrounded by relaxing, apparently unconcerned, holidaygoers confronted readers of the Independent. The photograph has sparked ‘mounting disquiet’, the newspaper says, and comments left by its readers accuse Italy of becoming more fascist. A case of the power of an image to confront society with what it would rather not see. Also, of course, a case of the rhetoric of photojournalism - there’s quite a claim in the image that people are indifferent to the tragedies of such racialised underclases.

It’s another balmy weekend on the beach in Naples. By the rocks, a couple soak up the southern Italian sun. A few metres away, their feet poking from under beach towels that cover their faces and bodies, lie two drowned Roma children. The girls, Cristina, aged 16, and Violetta, 14, were buried as the fallout from the circumstances of their death reverberated throughout Italy. It is an image that has crystallised the mounting disquiet in the country over the treatment of Roma, coming after camps have been burnt and the government has embarked on a bid to fingerprint every member of the minority. Two young Roma sisters had drowned at Torregaveta beach after taking a dip in treacherous waters. Their corpses were recovered from the sea - then left on the beach for hours while holidaymakers continued to sunbathe and picnic around them. As the bodies of the two girls were laid on the sand, their sister and cousin were taken away by the police to identify and contact the parents. Some pious soul donated a couple of towels to preserve the most basic decencies. Then beach life resumed. The indifference was taken as shocking proof that many Italians no longer have human feelings for the Roma, even though the communities have lived side by side for generations.

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