It is one of the prize winning photos of the World Press Photo Contest. It was taken by Samuel Aranda in Saana, Yemen, October 5, 2011. He was working for the New York Times.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
This photo I find both draws me to look at it and, at the same time, makes me want to look away. I feel uncomfortable for being a voyeur of such a touching human moment. Here we see a scene which has two images which each makes us uncomfortable such that we want to look away while at the same time we are drawn to stare. The first is a man, near naked, and obviously suffering ( he was a victim of the uprising in Sanaa ,Yemen.) We ought not to be intruding on another's suffering, (as if he were road kill on the highway) particularly when he is so helpless and unable to defend himself and his right to modesty. The second person, is a woman, in contrast, completely covered including a hiqab. The gloves would indicate she is a medical assistant but she is offering more that medical assistance.
She is offering succour to another human's pain and suffering. For me, a western person, unfamiliar with women presenting themselves in a Niqab, I am drawn to stare at her, wondering who she is. At the same time. I feel I should look away for she dressing in this manner to protect her modestly and doesn't deserve to have a stranger staring at her. Do I really need to see more of her to judge her humanity?
We often think woman in a Niqab as hiding her humanity, and yet, this scene is a demonstration of her showing her humanity to this man in a very tender way as it he were a child. In fact, he is as helpless as a child and in a way she has set aside her modestly and drawn him to her. We need not see more to understand the quality of her humanity.
I continue to return to this photo and look at it. The more I look; the more I think I learn. It is without a title so I like to call it "Compassion", or, The Muslim Pietà
If you want to see other prize winning photos you can find them here.