Attack on Westminster Bridge

Above: A photo taken by Toby Melville on 22 March 2017. Credit: Reuters.

World Press Photo

Reuters photographer Toby Melville from Sussex, England, was on his way home from taking pictures around the Houses of Parliament one day when he was caught up in the event of the 22 March Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in which Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians and then stabbed a police officer. Melville was essentially an eye-witness photographer--he just happened to also be a trained professional photo-journalist. His picture, which was short-listed for the World Press Photograph of the Year, emerged out of the sheer chance of being around the corner from where the savage attack occurred, "of a dozen or so people, some of them seemed to be conscious. I didn't know there had been a vehicle involved at the time, someone said 'bus', someone said 'car' someone said 'shooting' ... it was just surreal and it was a fairly quick computation that this was a serious incident and a lot of people injured."

The photo that Melville entered for the photo-competition depends (beyond the quality of urban chance and serendipity) on two factors for its basic frisson. First is the choice of subject: as Poe observed, "the death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world." The second essential component is the act of voyeurism that is recorded. Where others rush to care for the wounded and dying Melville takes photos. The viewer of the photo-in-competition gains a sense of this anti-social behaviour; even as she lays injured (possibly fatally) the female victim still has the wherewithal to give the photographer (and so the viewer) a dirty look which means this: Why don't you just Fuck Off!

(23 February 2018)