I am a stalwart supporter of the women’s movement with a full understanding of what it means to be an equal opportunity employer. But as a photojournalist, I have experienced similarly dangerous situations to the one CBS reporter Lara Logan faced in Egypt, and would like to comment her recent, horrific assault there.
I have been in skirmishes and riots in many places, including Cyprus, Somalia, Watts, Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bosnia, and I have seen the way women are treated. Once in Croatia, a woman reporter and I were taking a ferry across the sea, as it was quicker than going by land. The reporter was a smart, pretty woman. It was a lovely, sunny day and she said she was going up top for some fresh air. After a while I decided to venture to the upper deck, too. The reporter was lying flat on her stomach with her bra undone sunning herself. She was surrounded by what looked to be 30 workmen who happened to be on the ferry. I literally had to pull her away to get to the lower deck. Although nothing occurred, the situation was potentially dangerous for the obvious reasons.
The last place for a young, attractive woman to be is in the middle of an extremely dangerous situation surrounded by an angry mob. Not only does it put her in harm’s way, but it compromises her co-workers as well, since they have to try to protect her as best they can – sometimes an impossible task. The crew usually consists of the sound man, the cameraman and one or two others. Some might be middle-aged or retirement age. Do the assigning editors think of the rest of the crew’s safety? Not to sound insensitive, but needless to say, their ability to cover the news is affected as well.
Who should take part of the responsibility, part of the blame? To my mind, it should be the editors who gave her the assignment in the first place. Lara Logan is lucky to be alive. The problem is that the production team thinks everything will be alright because the team is staying in a luxury hotel with all the amenities. But what they don’t realize or take into consideration is the risk to a young, beautiful woman with long flowing blond hair in the middle of an angry, hysterical, fearless mob living for the moment. I would like to know what the crew with Ms. Logan had to say. The crew in these situations might have to pay a very high price for the anchor’s ambition and willingness to take these risks.
Being a photographer, I always tried to go on assignments alone, as I could then make my own decisions and take calculated risks. If I happened to have a reporter with me, it cut my productivity in half.
I am all for women doing whatever job that men do. Honestly, many times I find the women I work with to be smarter than the men. But shame on the editors at CBS who assigned a beautiful woman to cover a very dangerous situation. Their lack of judgment should have been tempered with a little common sense. Their decision about whom to send to cover the uprising and political unrest should not have been made for fear of being politically incorrect.
Editor’s Note: Scottish-born photojournalist Harry Benson has shot for an international array of magazines and newspapers. He has photographed eleven American presidents from Eisenhower to Obama, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., and has photographed luminaries from Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II to Frank Sinatra, Brad Pitt and The Rolling Stones. The most published photographer in Life magazine, Harry has had forty one-man exhibitions of his work in the US and Europe, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. He lives in New York and Florida with his wife, Gigi.