Post reader gets it right: Each Saturday, the hard-copy Washington Post includes a full page of letters from its readers.
The page is called Free for All. This Saturday, a Post reader from suburban Gaithersburg, Maryland got something very right.
She had written in praise of a photograph which ran ten days before. This is what she wrote:
LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST (10/18/14): Michel du Cille’s photo of Esther Tokpah, the 11-year-old Liberian whose parents died of Ebola [“A new generation of orphans,” front page, Oct. 8], deserves the highest award possible. It told a story of haunting bewilderment and grief in the face of tragic reality. The courageous presence of physician Jerry Brown, offering words of comfort, added poignancy to this extraordinary window into one of our world’s unspeakable nightmares. I am humbled, heartbroken and grateful.“I am humbled, heartbroken and grateful.“ Those are unusual things to say about a photograph. But there the photo in question was, published again by the Post.
K— J—, Gaithersburg
Especially in black and white, it’s an astonishing photo. On-line, the Post presents the photo in color, in which it loses some of its remarkable power.
On Saturday morning, we looked at the photograph in question in black and white:
It shows the 11-year-old girl who had lost her parents. Tears are streaming from her eyes. Her lips are pursed extremely hard against her grief.
We’ve looked at that photograph quite a few times since we first saw it Saturday morning. We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a more penetrating photo. It’s the kind of photo which makes you wonder why any of us ever do any of the things we do.
We can’t show you the photo in black and white. In color, we think it shows us much less.
Still, we’ll suggest that you give it a look. In our view, the reader from Gaithersburg had a good eye.
The photo does deserve the highest commendation, if we’re still able to think that commendations matter. It may also make a person want to look away. Especially in black and white, its power explains the unusual set of reactions the reader described.
Why do we do the things we do? That very unusual photograph left us asking that.