Photographer Defends Photo of Dead Ukrainian Family: ‘This is a War Crime’

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario this week published a graphic photo of a Ukranian family that was killed while attempting to evacuate their city. She says that as distressing as it is, the photo was important to take as it exposes a war crime.

Warning: This article contains graphic and distressing images.

A Deadly Mortar Strike on Civilians

Addario is a Pulitzer-prize-winning photojournalist who has been covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through on-the-ground photos of the effects of the war. One of her more recent photos is particularly harrowing and depicts a dead family of four who were hit by mortar fire while attempting to evacuate their city.

Addario shared the photo on her Instagram and Twitter accounts and the New York Times published it on its front page.

The mortar strike that killed the family can be seen in a video shot at close proximity.

“I went forward and found a place sort of behind a wall and started photographing,” she tells CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell. “Within minutes, a series of mortars fell increasingly closer and closer to our position until one landed about 30 feet from where I was standing and it killed a mother and her two children.”

Addario tells CBS News that seeing that family in the street reminded her of her own children.

“I’m a mother, and when I’m working, I try to stay very focused. I try to keep, sort of, the camera to my eye,” she continues.

“But of course, it was very emotional. First of all, I had just been sprayed with gravel from a mortar round that could have killed us very easily. So I was shaken up, and when we were told that we could run across the street by our security adviser, I ran and I saw this family splayed out and I saw these little moon boots and puffy coat.”

“This is a War Crime”

Addario says that while the image is difficult to look at and was challenging for her to even photograph — she goes even so far as to describe the action as inherently disrespectful — doing so was necessary in order to show the world what is happening in Ukraine.

“This is a war crime,” she says in response to those criticizing her decision to capture and publish the photo.

Russian President Vladamir Putin has repeatedly denied that his forces are targeting Ukrainian civilians, but Addario’s photo as well as other accounts from the region show that does not appear to be the case.

“I think it’s really important that people around the world see these images,” she adds. “It’s really brave of the New York Times to put that image on the front page. It’s a difficult image, but it is a historically important image.”