A Finnish photojournalist says Finland "disinfected" Covid reality

The amazing image of the body of a coronavirus victim wrapped in yellow infectious waste and lying in an Indonesian hospital won second prize at this year’s World Press Photo Awards.

When the photo – Indonesian freelance photographer Joshua Irwandi April 2020 – first published and sparked widespread debate on social media in a country that was struggling at the time to survive the first wave of the virus.

Many people accused Irwand of inventing the image to spread fear, but by the end of 2020, 22,000 coronavirus-related deaths had been officially recorded in Indonesia.

The 2021 World Press Photo winner also took a moment to show the effects of the virus on humans. Photo titled “First Embrace” taken by a Danish photographer Mads Nissen, looks 85 years old Rosa Luzia Lunardi received the first human embrace from a nurse for five months Adriana Silva da Costa Souza At the Viva Bem nursing home in São Paulo, Brazil.

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Taken by Danish photographer Mads Nissen, “First Embrace” shows nurse Adriana Silva da Costa Souza hugging nursing home resident Rosa Luzia Lunardia (85).Mads Nissen / Politiken / Panos Pictures. Photo source: World Press Photo

"The coronavirus has dominated the flow of news images for a year and a half," Finnish image editing program Mikko Takkunen told Yle. "However, the pandemic has been portrayed in very different ways around the world."

Takkunen works for the New York Times State Department and orders and selects photos for NOW articles. He has lived in Hong Kong for several years and is responsible for selecting news images from across Asia.

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Mikko Takkunen is sitting on the Joensuu market square.
New York Times photo editor Mikko Takkunen.Heikki Haapalainen / General

That is why he has been following the pandemic and how it has been told through news images, since the first cases in Wuhan, China, very closely.

Covid images “disinfected” in Finland

Takkunen said that he had noticed that there have been far fewer images of coronavirus-related deaths or very ill people in the Finnish media compared to other parts of the world.

"Photos [from Finland] has been disinfected more. The images coming from Finland to the rest of the world have been people waiting for boulders or neat vaccinations during the closure of Uusimaa," Takkunen said.

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Uses queuing methods in standby mode for coronation vaccination at the Exhibition Center.
People are waiting for vaccination in Helsinki in April 2021.Tiina Jutila / General
The builders will install concrete piglets on the Highway 3 roadblock on March 27, 2020.
Concrete stones placed on the highway when Uusimaa came from the rest of the country were closed in the spring of 2020.Ilkka Klemola / General

Although Finland has survived many of the worst effects of the pandemic that destroyed other countries, Takkunen said he believed that cultural differences are also a factor in the images chosen by Finnish photographers.

For example, photographers and journalists have not been present in hospital intensive care units, and the threshold for media presence at funerals in Finland is very high.

As an example of how this differs from other countries, Takkunen cites an example of the impact of the virus on the Italian city of Bergamo in spring 2020, the story extensively covering New York times as well as other news.

Photographers took pictures of sick people lying in beds in crowded hospital corridors, exhausted health workers, and scenes from urban cemeteries when the military was called in to help transport the dead.

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Military personnel may be involved in transport from Bergamo to other countries in Norway.
The Italian army was called to the city of Bergamo to help transport the dead to the cemeteries.

Photographers in the UK also had access to hospital wards to document the extent of human suffering during the pandemic. These images, including the image that was on the front page of the New York Times, show how much the virus has caused to patients.

No such pictures have been seen coming from Finland at all during the pandemic, Takkunen pointed out.

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New York Times cover photo with a coronary patient in hospital next to a nurse.
Photograph of a patient receiving treatment at a London hospital on the front page of the New York Times in March 2021.Andrew Testa / New York Times

"If we have been photographed, we will always ensure that we have permission from the person himself or his or her relative. This is not compromised," Takkunen said and added that even the harshest images are justified.

"They bring the reality of the pandemic closer. Without them, many would be completely unaware of what Covid is at its worst," he said.

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New York Times cover photo of a coronary patient being transferred to a hammock in Brazil.
New York Times front page photo of the effects of the pandemic in Brazil, August 2020.Tyler Hicks / New York Times

As an example, Takkunen recalled seeing pictures of India and Brazil when the virus wreaked enormous havoc on human life in both countries.

In India, Danish Siddiqui, a photographer for the news agency Reuters, captured the chaos in hospitals, cemeteries and crematoria due to coronavirus "tore Indian cities, towns and villages" while images of cemeteries being built in Brazil to bury the dead have been preserved in Takkunen.

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A man in a protective suit in India.
Images of crematoria in India spread around the world.Idrees Mohammed / EPA

In the United States, pandemic images fall into two broad categories, as do most people’s attitudes toward the virus.

Criticism of the vaccine and even a ban on the entire pandemic are more common in the United States and appear more widely in the media. Fox News’ pictures of the pandemic look very different from, for example, the New York Times, Takkunen added.

Source: The Nordic Page


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