Over Censored

An Andrew Quilty image you want see on public display during Vivid Sydney.

We often hear spin-doctors and politicians bemoan the 24/7 news cycle. But even as a journalist I find it hard to keep up. One tactic I use to stay on top of the daily news is to listen to ABC News Radio in the car.

Not only does it give me breaking news, but it also means I often don’t have to watch the evening news – a small blessing with a young son. However I did get caught out one day with my son in the car. He heard on the radio that a group of asylum seekers drowned on their way to Australia.

Before I could turn it off came a barrage of questions.

“Mama, why did they drown? Why couldn’t they swim? Why were they in the boat? Why were they coming to Australia?”

Answering his enquiring mind but still protecting him was one of the hardest, and heartbreaking conversations I have had to have with him. But it brought home how we can’t do this forever. He needs to – bit by bit – know about the world we are living in.

So when I saw the images that were banned from the public screens of Reportage as part of Vivid Sydney, I reflected on this.

I agree that images of dead bodies, people held at gunpoint  and disfigured are unsuitable for young eyes. Yes, it is photo-journalism but I certainly would not show these to a young child.

But who are we protecting when we censor images of a young girl brushing her hair, or a family playing amongst the washing. What about a child lounging on their father in a quiet moment?

Yet what baffled me most were the images of the natural disasters by Andrew Quilty. These are images that news services would replay as archive footage on any given day.

You can argue you are protecting those who suffered the psychological impact of the floods, cyclones and bushfires, but this is not a blanket rule. Those images could still be seen when talking about climate change, impact of natural disasters or insurance policy loopholes.

If you censor them from a photographic exhibition you are not only denying the world we live in. Sometimes it is not a pretty world and sometimes we can’t explain it in words.  But that’s the power of the photograph.

How we explain that world to our children, well in most part that should be left up to us – the parents. We know them better than government censors and bureaucrats.

You can see the censored images here.

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