Thursday, June 6, 2013

We are all... Ceyda Sungur?

I was waiting for it to emerge, and here it is!... One face, one conflict. I knew that somewhere, somewhere, was going to bring down a whole conflict into one "iconic" photo - and it happened. The image of "Ceyda Sungur" a Turkish academic (it helps that she is not veiled, is stylishly dressed in what has become "the lady in red" caption of the photo, has minimal accessories and oh-that-cute-about-to-be-sold-out-from-shops tote bag). And here is the photo that is supposed to sum up the boiling in the streets of Turkey:

Photo credit: Osman Orsal

See? We needed this. We needed to downsize a very ramified and complex problem into something more palatable and digestible. First, we needed one person to epitomize this. Ceyda Sungur was the perfect cast - as explained above, she is the prototype to a fault. The innocent woman confronting the big bad wolf as represented by the typical army-police-establishment figure.
The back story is even better - she's with the urban planning department of the Technical University. But if Sungur has a head screwed firmly on her shoulders saying to the Turkish press "a lot of people no different from me were out protecting the park [...] they were gased too", but a lot of other figureheads that have come to symbolize complex problems might not be so lucky.
Sungur is but one of the stories in such conflicts. Look no further than Marc Riboud's classic photo of the Vietnam protests in front of the Pentagon to see the pedigree and the heritage of the photo taken by Orsal.

Photo credit: Marc Riboud

For the others, who might be dead for that matter, their legacy is hijacked for better or for worse. Don't you remember the all too recent (but which in Twitter years is eons ago) #weareallneda? Neda being "Neda Agha Soltani" who became the face of the "green revolution" in Iran in 2009.


Mohammad Dura became the poster boy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To this day, the Israeli Defense Forces still claim they did not kill him - and that's 13 years after the fact. The photo below made the world headlines.


Mohamed Bouazizi, will forever be linked to the uprising in Tunisia. He inspired works of art, graffiti and now has a commemorative stamp in his name:


In the age of the social media, everything needs to be downsized and made flat. Forget that in real life right-wing extremist parties would be in bed with Liberals and supported by a coalition of pinko commies and environmental activists with a backdrop of religious hardliners, we need things to be simple - even if it means making a travesty of the original causes of the conflicts and turbulence we are in front of. Today, we need one person to represent a whole multitude of things, to make difficult things cool and share-worthy on our networks.
It is OK if it is not the real-deal. Who cares, this revolution is televised. we need a photogenic cast... #weareallceydasungur after all!
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