A finger, a trigger, a shoe. A death.

Image Burhan Ozbilici—AP


Grant Scott has a very thoughtful piece on his site The United Nations of Photography titled ‘The Single Image Narrative: Sometimes It Chooses You’ – it’s well worth a read:

“The resulting image tells that story, it’s hyper digital clarity creating a cinematic news image for our times. The narrative is clear, shocking and deeply affecting in its emotional coldness.”

Time also has an interesting article that views the unfolding situation from three varying perspectives offered by different photographers, in “Three Photographers Witnessed an Assassination. One Photo Went Viral”

Again, fascinating in its analysis of the event and its aftermath.

The photographers were lucky as several others were injured at the exhibition. The gunman was later “neutralized” by Turkish law enforcement officers. Asked if he slept on Monday evening, Alatan says, “I kept thinking what could have saved the ambassador all night. I tried to find a way.” That he knew Karlov added to the shock of it all: “I wish this hadn’t happened, and I hadn’t taken those photos.”

I read a piece when the news broke that mentioned one detail in that key, viral image, the trigger finger of the policeman/assassin – trained to do what professional users of guns always do, keep the trigger finger off the trigger until you intend to shoot. And that detail spoke volumes about the professionalism and calculated nature of what had just occurred.

But there was one other detail, one that I have not seen mentioned and which for me offers a compelling and deeply affecting counterpoint to that trigger finger and the ‘skills’ that lie behind it. And it’s a detail that makes this image all the more moving for me.

It’s the sole of the shoe of the victim Ambassador Andrey Karlov. It is well-worn, its unique pattern of wear implying considerable use and signifying the humanity that bore down upon it over countless days, weeks, months as its owner fulfilled his duties. And it is ordinary, like my shoes, and your shoes, but visible only because he is sprawled dying on the floor. And then there’s its angle, pointing directly towards the gun that has just been fired, and vertically below the clenched fist and raised finger of the killer.

Photography never ceases to surprise me. That an image can cause me to be moved by something as simple as a worn shoe, connect me with another in a way I would never have guessed, is quite remarkable.


Author — John Macpherson

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 30 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

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