This image by Spencer Platt, winner of the 2006 World Press Photo of the Year, was named one of the most influential photos of the decade by readers of PDN. (For more on PDN’s Visions of the Decade, see PDN’s January issue.)
The photo’s caption reads, “Affluent Lebanese drive down the street to look at a destroyed neighborhood August 15, 2006 in southern Beirut, Lebanon. As the United Nations-brokered cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah enters its first day, thousands of Lebanese returned to their homes and villages.”
The image excited a lot of controversy. Says Platt, “While most of my images from this war showed dead, crying or displaced Lebanese, this photo shows them as resilient, beautiful and seemingly impervious to the Israeli bombs.” Some people believed it showed callous tourists viewing devastation; Platt says he’s seen several stories speculating about the subjects, including one claiming they were actually poor Lebanese who happened to find themselves in a sports car. In February 2007, PDNOnline published an interview with the subjects. They said they were residents of the formerly Christian neighborhood in the photo but had been forced to flee the bombing; at the start of the cease fire, they drove back to check on their homes.
Says Platt, “What matters is that this image could not be taken anywhere else in the world except Lebanon. There is nowhere that fashion, carnage, war and beauty rub shoulders as they do in Beirut.” He adds, “A red Mini Cooper driving through the rubble with a group of glamorous youth looking perplexed and slightly indifferent…that is a picture….nothing more need be said.”