The Execution of Bin Laden in Images

The Execution of Bin Laden in Images

Chinar Shah: The Execution of Bin Laden in Images. Courtesy of Pete Souza.

The photo essay illustrates the politics of missing visuals from the public domain and analysis of the artist’s book Bin Laden Situation Room. The book is a reaction to the photograph issued on 2 May 2011 by the American government at the time of Bin Laden’s execution. The image taken by the official White House photographer Pete Souza, depicts president Barack Obama and his national security team witnessing the execution of Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Islamic militant organization, al-Qaeda. Apart from this the American government did not issue any other visual evidence of the event. The essay explores war strategies of keeping the visuals mute, and in doing so, controlling the public opinion. Photography that prides itself on representing and uncovering historical moments, completely fails here. The book Bin Laden Situation Room, attempts to look for what the image fails to show. The essay examines the visibility and invisibility of frames of references and power to see and not see.

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It was with the tools of obliteration that archives – the memory of the obliteration – had to be obliterated. It was a way of keeping the obliteration forever in its unimaginable condition.
Reading time: 8 min.

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