1944 | Vienne Execution


After France was liberated from the Nazis in 1944, a wave of retributions swept through the country. Nazi collaborators and Gestapo informers were denounced; women suspected of having relationships with Germans were publicly humiliated by having their heads shaved; those engaged in the black market activities were labeled as “war profiteers” and trialed.

In the first fevered phase (remembered as épuration sauvage or wild purge, as opposed to later legal purges, épuration légale), one estimate noted that six thousand people were summarized executed for collaboration before the liberation of France, and four thousand thereafter. members and leaders of the milices. The US Army’s estimates were higher: eighty thousand, and one source even reported that the number executed was 105,000.

One such execution was well documented by Jean-Philippe Charbonnier in the village of Vienne, near Grenoble. Charbonnier spent a single roll of 35mm film to document the entire story of the public execution of a Nazi collaborator in front of a crowd of five thousand people. Each shot built up to the death by firing squad of a minor official who had possibly worked for the Gestapo with documentary and cinematic precision, beginning with the man being tied to a post, soldiers with rifles preparing for the task, then ultimately killing him.


Charbonnier remembered the day and the legal and moral ambiguities of that day:

In October, 1944, in the small town of Vienne (Isere), France, a French collaborator named Nitard was sentenced to death.

He was no large-scale spy — just a man who had been working as a clerk in the German administration, probably for the Gestapo. But one must remember that in the early days of Liberation in France, as in any other country that had suffered four years’ occupation, feelings ran high against any collaborator, big or small. And then, of course the really dangerous collaborators were not easy to bring to justice so the small fry had to pay the price for their more fortunate partners-in-crime. More fuel to the fire had been the executions by the Germans of many great patriots both in Lyons and in Vienne.

The outcry was therefore so violent that, even though Nitard’s appeal to the Courts of Justice in Grenoble had been successful, the shooting was ordered to take place, so as not to disappoint the population of Vienne, I cannot help feeling.

So that everyone in the town should have a chance to watch the execution and share in the general revenge, it was scheduled to take place at noon. Five thousand people, children included, crowded into the square in front of the old military barracks. So intense was the excitement that one could almost smell it as one can before a bullfight or even a good football game, while in the barrack square the condemned man gulped back the traditional glass of rum and lit the traditional cigarette. He puffed at it a few times, then stubbed it out, thrust the butt into his pocket and went to face the firing-squad.

He passed through a hall where the twelve rifles, one with a blank cartridge, had been laid out ready, and walked out into the square to be met by a priest, the firing-squad, its commanding officer and the now strangely silent crowd.

This demonstration of public justice shocked me profoundly. No one deplored collaboration more than I but this punishment seemed to me to be out of all proportion to this man’s relatively small crime. My nerves were taut. This man who was about to die was so close. I don’t remember whether the crowd was silent now, or not. I only know that I set my Leica automatically, as in a dream … or rather, a nightmare. Subconscious reflexes turned my battered old Summar F2 lens to the closest possible range while I tried to fight off feelings of disgust.

Suddenly I felt very close to that man standing alone in the square. The cigarette butt. Injustice to humanity. And then the overwhelming feeling that the man was dead already, that he was like a duck with its head cut off that runs for minutes before finally falling dead. He was dead before he ever entered the “arena” — even after fifteen years I can’t stand using that word.

The “show” was reaching its climax but now the man was untied from the post. He was a traitor and traitors are not given the right to meet death facing the squad. The seconds ticked by as he was bound with his back to the rifles. And then they fired.

Nitard never saw me although I was at times no more than five feet away. The whole story took up just one 35mm roll, as you can see — the biggest, most compact story I ever covered and one I wish never to have to cover again.”



If you like what I do and what I write, or simply wants me to write more, you can support me via Patreon. I had tremendous fun researching and writing Iconic Photos, and the Patreon is a way for this blog to be self-sustaining.

Proceeds mainly go to buying photography reference books and support me on my research (re: paywalled articles, trips to various archives). In addition to monthly addenda posts on Patreon, readers who subscribe on Patreon might have access to a few blog posts early; chance to request topics or to participate in some polls

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Poolside Gossip | 1970


You have probably seen it. In bars, in restaurants, on walls of hotel lobbies. The photo of two attractive women sitting in lounge chairs next to a pool and a modern house. Gray and purple mountains in the background.

Slim Aarons, a society photographer in Los Angeles, took the photo in 1970. The house in question was Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, one of the most famous examples of California modernism — the house that helped establish Palm Springs as centre for modernist architecture. Designed in 1946 by Austrian-American architect Richard Neutra, the house originally belonged to department store tycoon Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., who also commissioned Fallingwater from Frank Lloyd Wright.


In 1970, the house belonged to Joe and Nelda Linsk, Philadelphia clothing manufacturers (Nelda, a Texan model, was a buyer for Linsk of Philadelphia, before marrying the boss). In addition to Aarons, who lived just down the street, their neighbors then included Kirk Douglas, Jack Benny, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh and Lucy and Desi Arnaz. Mrs. Linsk remembers:

It was about 11 in the morning. Slim called us. He knew our house was a Neutra. He said: “I want to come over and do a pool shot. Call some friends over.”

It was so casual. He came with his tripod. The shoot was about an hour and a half. We had champagne and socialized for an hour or two afterward. It was a fun day. I had no idea it would become that famous. I wish I had royalties.  

There were no makeup or wardrobe people. Slim said, “Pull something out of your closet.” Our house was done in yellow: the umbrellas were yellow, the flowers yellow. So I thought I’d wear something yellow. My outfit was in yellow terry cloth. I had on palazzo pants. Helen showed up in that fabulous white lace. She looked so glamorous!

Both of our outfits were bare midriff. We both had big hair. In those days, you had big hair.


The other women in the photo were Helen Dzo Dzo, who was then married the architect Hugh Kaptur and walking alongside the pool, Lita Baron, an actress. For the 45th anniversary of the photo, the women returned to the Kaufmann House to restage the iconic photo.

The house sold for $13.06 million in 2022.



If you like what I do and what I write, or simply wants me to write more, you can support me via Patreon. I had tremendous fun researching and writing Iconic Photos, and the Patreon is a way for this blog to be self-sustaining.

Proceeds mainly go to buying photography reference books and support me on my research (re: paywalled articles, trips to various archives). In addition to monthly addenda posts on Patreon, readers who subscribe on Patreon might have access to a few blog posts early; chance to request topics or to participate in some polls

Even if Patreon isn’t your thing, you can support by re-sharing, or tweeting about the blog or the specific posts on here. Thanks for your continued support!  Here is the link:


Mount St. Helens – April 1980


At 8:27 a.m. on May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens in the Pacific Northwest of the United States was 9,677 feet high. Over the next five minutes, the volcano lost 1,300 feet, blowing its top in an explosion so massive that trees toppled 17 miles away. A force equivalent to a 7-megaton nuclear weapon was unleashed into the Washington countryside, and hurricane-force winds stripped tree and soil out, leaving nothing but bare earth. Each places over a hundred miles away were coated with two inches of ash. “It was like going to the land of Mordor,” recounts one logger afterwards, according to Steve Olson’s masterly Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens.

For the preceding two months, since a small earthquake struck below the north face of the mountain, the authorities and the locals had been monitoring Mount St. Helens, but they didn’t expect such an explosion. After all, the mountain had been dormant since 1850s. So they watched fretfully, tensions rising between locals, businesses and government ran high over access restrictions, even as the mountain developed a constantly growing bulge on its side for weeks leading up to the blast.

On April 30, 1980, the governor’s office barred the public from areas around the mountain, but the order did not contain a map and citizens were led to believe that the forbidden zone was only a small area around the summit. When the explosion came, many were caught up in the pyroclastic flow — mixture of very fine ash and gas with temperatures around 350 degree Celsius, which came down the mountain at a very high speed. May 18th was a Sunday. If it had been any other day, the death toll would have been higher, because for of all the warnings, people were still working in the area. Among the dead were an 83-year-old local innkeeper whose cantenkerous refusal to leave the area despite warnings made him something of a folk hero, a newly-wed couple who were fishing and camping at a nearby lake, four vulcanologists, and two photographers.


The photos in this post are from Reid Blackburn, whose body and camera were recovered from the car he was in, outside the closed zones. Shortly after the explosion, colleagues from the local paper he worked for, visited the blast zone and recovered some of the gear, but the photos were unrecoverable. The photos here are from an earlier roll, which he left at the paper’s studio, and was only re-discovered in 2013.



Marcel Duchamp Plays Chess, 1963


The Smithsonian called it “among the key documentary images of American modern art”. On 18 October 1963, at the Pasadena Art Museum, Time’s Julian Wasser took a photo showing Marcel Duchamp playing chess against a totally naked young woman, Eve Babitz.

It was an iconic juxtaposition, of the nude bride and the bachelor Duchamp (who remained unmarried for most of his life), of black and white pieces, of man and woman. Symmetries and asymmetries abound: of young vs. old, of faced vs. faceless, of Duchamp’s aged body vs. Babitz’s full figure. Looming over them was Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even — a fitting piece for Babitz, who would go on to have affairs with Jim Morrison, Ed and Paul Ruscha, Steve Martin, and Harrison Ford. She recalls in Esquire magazine in 1991:

“I had been taking birth control pills for the first and only time in my life, and not only had I puffed up like a blimp but my breasts had swollen to look like two pink footballs. Plus they hurt. On the other hand, it would be a great contrast–this large, too-L. A. surfer girl with an extremely tiny old man in a French suit. Playing chess. (After I saw the contact sheets, I never took the Pill again.)”

By 1963, Duchamp, one of the fathers of Dadaism and conceptual art, was semi-retired and had turned his focus to playing chess. But that year, when the Pasadena Art Museum staged his first retrospective, the elderly artist was having a renaissance. He appeared playing chess in the documentary made to coincide with the show. The avant-garde art world of the 1950s found in him a kindred spirit. His 1917 work, “Fountain” — a piece which he deliberately crafted to offend — ironically became a highly sought-after art piece after the second world war, and Duchamp issued three authorized copies in 1950, 1953 and 1963. The next year, Duchamp was to replicate his important works into 12 replicas.



Babitz continues:

“At 9:00, Marcel arrived alone, wearing a little straw hat he had picked up the day before in Las Vegas … And these completely detached eyes, which seemed charmed to be alive but otherwise had no comment on the passing scene, met mine.

A feeling of gentleness pervaded him… I took the smock off, letting it fall beside me, but Julian kicked it far across the slippery floor, out of the way in a corner. I sat down quickly at the chess set and wondered if we could just pose or did we actually have to play, but Marcel–whose obsession with chess made him give up not only art but girls–was waiting for me to make the first move.

“Et alors,” he said. “You go.”

I, of course, had youth and beauty (and birth control pills) over him, but he had brains on his side–or at least chess brains–and though I tried my best, moving a knight so at least he knew I had some idea what a knight was, he moved his pawn and the next thing I knew, I was checkmated. “Fool’s mate” they call it when you’re so stupid that the game hasn’t even begun and you’ve lost.

I became interested in playing and tried to stop thinking about holding in my stomach, but every time I thought I was so brilliant, like taking his queen on the fourth move, I’d lose.

Of all the things that have ever gone on be tween men and women, this was the strangest, in my experience. But it got stranger. For one thing, there were Teamsters in the next room, moving paintings, and they couldn’t help but be amazed.

[Long Read: Oral History of Julian Wasser’s photo session with Duchamp and Babitz]

The Boat of No Smiles

Are there faint echoes of Vietnam in modern migrations? 


In the late 70s and the 80s, “Vietnamese” was almost invariably followed by the term “boat people”. Between 1975 and 1992, around two million people (nearly four percent of the country’s population) fled Vietnam by boat to escape poverty, oppression, and war. It was a perilous journey — up to 250,000 people died at sea from storms, illness, food shortages, and piracy.

Photographer Eddie Adams, now better known for another iconic photo, remembers being on the frontline of this exodus, and getting into a refuge boat which was turned away:

No one, no country, was letting the refugees land. You couldn’t even find out about them. At first, I went back and said the story was impossible to cover. Then I had an idea and got in touch with the Thai Marine police (I knew Thailand very well) who had been shoving the boats right back offshore to certain death. I told them would like to go with them on patrol in the Gulf of Siam.

They OK’d it, so we headed for the most likely point in northern Thailand, getting there at 4am when a refugee boat had just pulled in; the Thai authorities were getting ready to cast it off again. It was Thanksgiving Day in 1977. I suddenly asked the Vietnamese if I could go with them— I bought gas and rice – they had no fuel or food. There were forty-nine people aboard that fishing boat, including children— in the hold that same day a baby was born. The Thais towed us back out to sea and set us adrift. On that boat, there was no room to lie down, so they all had to sit up straight, waking or sleeping. I cannot describe the despair. There were dramatic pictures of mothers with half-dead children in their arms but something even worse was there.

Whenever you go to refugee camps in a war zone where terrible things have happened, where bodies might be stacked up, and disease everywhere, you still find children who gather before the camera with a smile. This was the first time in my life that no child smiled. I called the pictures, “the boat of no smiles.” The boat was hardly moving- they didn’t even know where to go.

Then we were approached by another Thai boat with a megaphone ordering me off at gunpoint— they were afraid someone would let them dock knowing there was an American aboard. I had mixed feelings about getting off. I wrote the story and sent the pictures immediately, and they ran. Peter Arnett did a story also and a few others. Within a couple of days the administration asked the AP to present the photos to Congress. And Carter said let them come to America. The Congress had been thinking about it, sure, but the pictures did it, pushed it over.

The photos convinced the American government to allow 250,000 refugees to enter into the United States. Tragic drownings were to mobilize public opinion and a coordinated plan led to resettlement of over 1.3 million refuges across the developed world (China also took in 300,000 Vietnamese of Chinese blood).


In 1978, Adams and Arnett traveled to the Malaysian island of Bidong, “once a paradise with blue waters, white sandy beaches fringed by coconut palms, topped by a verdant hillside,” but by then one of the most crowded refuge encampments in the world — where 40,000 refugees huddled in a space the size of football field.

Here, tales evoking Sophie’s Choice were played out, as the developed nations selected who could migrate where, with varying criteria. For instance, the United States gave priority to those who had served in the South Vietnamese military and their families. An acquaintance of mine had to choose between migrating and his 10-year old brother-in-law (as the latter, not being his blood relative, was not accepted by the US). Making the choice all the harder, his newborn son was dying from dysentery: it was a decision between leaving behind a 10-year old boy or condemning their newborn child.

It has perhaps glib to compare the boat people to modern refuges, except to note that migrant experience was never easy. Yet there are faint echoes of Vietnam in modern migrations: in both United States and Australia (where the Vietnamese were the first non-European emigrants of significant size), the arrival of foreigners who worshiped different gods, from a country which espoused an ideology antithetical to Western values, and a country which until recently had been at war with them, initially caused great social disquiet.

Four decades on, these fears are a distant memory. By forgetting them, however, we condemn ourselves into repeating same mistakes over and over again.

Living With the Enemy


In the time it will take you to read this blog post, around 50 people in the United States would have been victims of domestic violence. For the longest time, even to the days of our parents, domestic violence was an act which not only went unreported but also simply taken for granted. The apocryphal rule of thumb — whereby a man is allowed to beat his wife so long as the rod used was no thicker than his thumb — was routinely assumed to be part of the British common law.

In 1982, Donna Ferrato was on assignment to photograph swingers for Playboy Japan at New York’s famous sex club, Plato’s Retreat, when she befriended Garth and Lisa, a polyamorous couple from Saddle River, New Jersey. On the surface, they have a successful marriage. However, Ferrato discovered a physically abusive husband who routinely beat his wife. She remembers:

I heard Lisa screaming and things breaking. As soon as I entered the bathroom Garth raised his hand to slap his wife in the face….

I said: ‘What are you doing? You are really going to hurt her.’ He threw me down and said: ‘I’m not going to hurt her — she’s my wife. I know what my strength is but I have to teach her that she can’t lie to me.’

The contact sheet shows every frame of the first fight I witnessed between Garth and Lisa. The most important thing on my mind was to take pictures to prove that what I was seeing really happened. Without a photograph there would be no evidence.

Ferrato approached her editors to publish the images, but they all refused.


For the next decade, Ferrato went around the United States visiting shelters, police stations and hospitals, and documenting the scenes and aftermaths of domestic abuse, compiled in her 1991 book Living With the Enemy. The book propelled an oft-neglected topic into a national sensation: she was invited to the White House for a private meeting with Hillary Clinton. Her work was featured on the cover of Time twice, following the Rita Collins murder case in 1993 and on a cover story called “When Violence Hits Home,” published after O.J. Simpson was arrested for the murder of his wife.

“Americans are confronting the ferocious violence that may erupt when love runs awry,” Time wrote then. Donna Ferrato’s photos underlining criminality and brutality inherent in domestic violence suggested otherwise.

Lewis Morley (1925 – 2013)

Lewis Morley, one half of an iconic spread, is dead, aged 88.


It is often said that the pill and Lady Chatterley’s Love made the permissive society. Alas, the sexual revolution also got its fair share of help from indiscretions of John Profumo, a Tory government minister, for no matter what unflappable judges declared over the previous decade, the Profumo Affair proved otherwise with its steamy reveals about the lives of stiff-upper-lipped establishment types.

While it was a more forgiving age where even the most public of individuals — from Edward VIII to John Kennedy to Labour’s own leader Hugh Gaitskell — could rely on the press to overlook their indiscretions, it was Profumo’s misfortune to become entangled with a call girl named Christine Keeler, who might be also seeing a Russian spy. Revealed alongside were salacious tales of demimondaine brothels, lavish parties, two-way mirrors, and rumors about a naked, masked, and illustrious male “host” whose identity was never revealed. It was a watershed moment for both the British politics and British political reporting.

Ms. Keeler posed famously for Lewis Morley, a famed chronicler of the Swinging Sixties. Morley cleared the studio and turned his back so that Keeler could undress, suggesting she sit astride the chair so the back would shield her. As the 30-minute shoot which burnt up 120 rolls of film was coming to end, Morley turned away, only to notice Keeler “in a perfect position”. The most amours photo was literally the last shot

Morley did not have fond memories of the day. “I never found her sexy,” he said. “She reminded me too much of Vera Lynn!” And as he came to resent its overshadowing of his other work, he called it “that fucking Keeler shot” and parodied it by photographing himself in the same pose with a millstone around his neck. He however signed the chair — a thinly-masked Arne Jacobsen copy — and sold it to the V&A while the National Portrait Gallery bought all original photos.


California Trip | Dennis Stock


Past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. From my stuffy desk, no past seems more foreign and different than the one lived by my parents and many of their compatriots: counter-culture of the 1960s, cobblestone-hurling revolts that rocked many Western democracies, hippies hitchhiking from Europe to India, across places like Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan. Alien lands indeed.

In 1968, Dennis Stock made an equally surreal journey. Stock, an esteemed photographer of jazz music scene, travelled across California at the height of hippie culture and free love. The resulting book, knowingly named California Trip, was “an ode to liberty”, and no photo encapsulated this zeitgeist more than the above photo taken at Venice Beach Rock Festival, which graced the cover of Reporters Without Borders’ 25th anniversary book.

In his contact sheets, you can see the spontaneity. When an unknown girl, her hands lilting and writhing, jumped in front of Stock’s lens, he took only four photos, but the moment’s lyrical energy and joie de vivre shine through the negatives. Stock remembers his trip: “I was attracted by the hippie movement, that was defined by two main principles: caring about others, and a taste for adventure. My pictures of hippies are about the search of a better life. I was drawn by what they tried to achieve. The hippy instinct was countercultural, it said ‘Let’s try to go back to basics’. Hippydom, in a sense, is a return of teenage rebellion, a new, stronger rebellion. Each one of us has a period of rebellion at a certain moment of their lives.”

In a later interview, he added: “Every idea that Western man explores in his pursuit of the best of all possible worlds will be searched at the head lab -California. Technological and spiritual quests vibrate throughout the state, intermingling, often creating the ethereal. It is from this freewheeling potpourri of search that the momentary ensembles in space spring, presenting to the photographer his surrealistic image. However, to the Californians it is all so ordinary, almost mundane. The sensibility of these conditioned victims is where it is all at, right, left, up and down. Our future is being determined in the lab out West. There, a recent trip blew my mind across this state of being, as I collected images along the way to remember the transient quality of the Big Trip.”

[Interviews are transcipted from the Independent].


A Llama in Times Square | Inge Morath


It was one of the more playful spreads in Life magazine. In its December 2, 1957 issue, the magazine featured a one-page story, humorously titled ‘High-paid llama in big city’. The story covered different television animals—from dogs and cats to a kangaroo and a miniature bull—but its highlight was Linda the Llama, as photographed by Inge Morath.

The caption read the llama was enroute to make a television appearance, but Morath recalled differently in her notes: “Linda, the Lama [sic] rides home via Broadway. She is just coming home from a television show in New York’s A.B.C. studios and now takes a relaxed and long-necked look at the lights of one of the world’s most famous streets.” Her contact sheets showed that Morath was already photographing the llama inside the studio, and the Inge Morath Foundation suggests the photographer might have acquainted herself with the llama and the trainer at least a year ahead of their photo-session.

The photo is undoubtedly one of the most famous photos by Inge Morath, one of the greatest photographers of her generation, and a typical one for her too. Her photographs were often surreal – Chinese soldiers climbing a large statue of Buddha, a driver with a poodle on his passenger seat, frantically dancing girls from Iraq to Iberia – a whimsy shaped by her experiences growing up in Austria during and after the Second World War: “Everyone was dead or half dead. I walked by dead horses, women with dead babies in their arms. I can’t photograph war for this reason.”

After the war, she worked for the Picture Post in London and Magnum in Paris, where she was an assistant to ever-demanding Henri Cartier-Bresson. She travelled to Iran for Holiday magazine sporting the traditional chador and traversing the vast country alone most of the time. In 1956 – a year before she took the llama photo – Morath came to New York for the first time, although her arrival did not go smoothly. At the height of the Red Scare, she was detained at the airport for carrying a book published by a leftish bookshop. Later, she settled in America, marrying the playwright Arthur Miller, whom she met on the set of The Misfits, whilst she was covering his first wife, Marilyn Monroe.


24 Years After Tiananmen

Iconic Photos’ annual look-back at a nasty and brutish affair.


June 5th is upon us again. In 1989, the Communist government in Beijing marred the date with a brutal and bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters gathered on Tiananmen Square.

Last year, I marked the occasion by an interview with Charlie Cole, the photographer who took one of the iconic Tank Man photos. The year before, I remarked upon the Zeligian appearance of a former Chinese prime minister in one of the photos taken on the square. In 2009, I covered various versions of the Tank Man photos. In between, we saw the defacing of the Mao portrait during the protests and a defiant Ai Wei Wei. A profound irony is they cannot access WordPress from China, so I remain, as always, preaching to the choir.

Above is the contact sheet from Stuart Franklin’s version of the Tank Man photos.  His photos nearly risked confiscation by the Chinese police, but Franklin had left moments earlier to cover events at the Beijing University before the police came knocking on the journalists’ hotel. Afterwards his negatives were smuggled out in a packet of tea by a French student who later delivered it to Franklin’s Parisian office. Franklin, working then for Time, won the World Press Photo Award for his coverage.

On Photos and Politics in Pakistan


The photo seems innocuous enough. For the Gerald Ford Presidential Library, it is not important enough even to have a larger picture than this contact sheet by Bill Fitz-Patrick, the White House photographer. But a world away, it was big news; on the streets of Pakistan it fueled protests.

It showed Nusrat Bhutto, the wife of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, wearing a sleeveless blouse and dancing with President Ford during a White House state dinner in 1975. On the streets of Lahore and Karachi, the anti-Bhutto demonstrators waved the photocopies of American magazines bearing the photos to prove that the Bhuttos were not “good Muslims”. In Lahore and Karachi, the crowds chanted, “Bhutto is a Hindu, Bhutto is a Jew.”

In the hindsight, a disturbingly volatile country was in the making even then. Amidst the accusations and counter-accusations of vote-rigging were the attempts to incite religious and racial divisions. The women policemen were labelled prostitutes in a series of protests marked by virulent anti-woman propaganda, also targeted towards Zulfikar’s wife and later his daughter Benazir. He was finally deposed in a military coup in 1977 and hanged after a show trial two years later.


On 16 December 1977, when Nusrat showed up to a test match at Lahore’s Gaddafi stadium, her supporters cried: “Long live Bhutto!”. In the ensuing uproar between pro- and anti-Bhutto fractions, the military police severely beat her; her head injuries required tweleve stitches and the photo of her injured face was headlines news again. From this moment on, the military government had kept her under house arrest for the remainder of Zulfikar’s trial, and secretly hanged him hours before the scheduled time, so that Nusrat would not be present at the execution. She lived on to see a Bhutto return to the premiership in the person of her daughter Benazir, but also saw Benazir’s assassination in 2007.

Pakistan is a different place now; the fast-growing country briefly seen in the 60s and the 70s as India and China languished had disappeared under a series of economic mismanagement and military coups. Even Benezir Bhutto seems to reject those urbane days now. In an interview with the Guardian’s Ian Jack, the late politician confidently proclaimed, “Good Muslim girls don’t dance with foreign men,” and explained that the President had breached the diplomatic protocol, and put her mother in a difficult position by asking for a dance. Her father did not ask Betty Ford’s hand for the dance, she noted.

Boy Destroying Piano | Phillip Jones Griffiths


A good photo is always a visual feast, but it often takes a great photo to make you hear the music, smell the scents, and live the events. One such photo is featured above. Taken in 1961, Phillip Jones Griffiths’ photo draws you in, inviting you to a place where you can see the immediate future and almost hear one final discordant groan of that destroyed piano as the rock hits it. Jones Griffiths remembers:

This young boy epitomizes our Welsh ambivalent love for both rugby and music. This place, Pant-y-Waen, was once, in the 1930s, voted the most Beautiful Village in South Wales, but it has long since been obliterated by opencast mining. When I asked what he was doing, he replied, “My mother gave it to me to mend”.

Jones Griffiths perhaps saw in this wanton act of destruction a metaphor for what had happened to his Welsh homeland. Born in 1936, in a rural Northern Welsh town of Rhuddan, he was imbued with a deep love for Wales, but grew up in an era of shattered dreams in Wales and abroad; by the time he started taking photos for local weddings, Picture Post was publishing gritty, gloomy photos of post-war, post-depression England, courtesy of Bill Brandt, Bert Hardy, and George Rodger. Jones Griffiths signed up to show a changed Wales. He would eventually make his name in Vietnam, depicting war in an equally gritty and humane way.


 [His contact sheets show the playground, the several shots of kids walking towards the piano, and the aftermath.]