Brandon Stanton (the photographer behind Humans of New York) is a guest of the UN in Iraq. I am happy to see that he is discovering some of the dilemmas that communication specialists in the aid sector deal with almost every day. His post above not only captures that pain left by conflict, but also the dilemma of interviewing and photographing vulnerable people.
I recently had a conversation with a fellow aid worker about asking difficult questions to people like Shaqlawa. I was reminded of a woman I met in South Sudan whose father had been killed and brother abducted only days before we met. I felt that, to convey the complete context of the situation she was in, I had to ask her about what had happened. When I did, she covered her face with her hands and said that she couldn't even begin to tell me about it. My colleague and friend said that he would not have asked the question in the first place.
I don't think there are any set rules in her case or in that of the man pictured above. Both are adults who were cognizant of what was happening. Both, presumably, had given their permission to be photographed and interviewed.
I would argue that the audience needs to understand that people are the same everywhere and that the death of an Iraqi or a Sudanese creates grief equal to that of an Australian or a Brit. That the feelings conveyed by the woman I interviewed and the man above are important so that everyone can understand this.
My friend and colleague would argue that they are vulnerable and deserve protection. That asking the question and publishing the reaction is exploitative.
Maybe we're both right.