The image that has quickly become synonymous with the Trump administration’s controversial border policy which saw children separated from their families has, the girl’s father suggests, been used to feed a media agenda after it was confirmed the girl was not taken away from her family.
In a new interview with the Washington Post, the girl’s father Denis Javier Varela Hernandez clarified that his daughter was at no point separated from her parents. The revelation raises a number of questions, and has sparked debate across online forums. Is this one of the grandest media manipulations in recent history?
That TIME Magazine could run a cover depicting the child crying whilst stood alone opposite Trump — seemingly in sync with controversy surrounding the President’s hard-line on immigration control — is concerning in that a photograph entirely unrelated to the situation has been taken out of context and has been used to sensationalize the issue. It’s a clear manipulation, and a stark reminder of the importance of context in documentary photography.
In giving interviews, John Moore, the photographer who took the image, only fueled the fire by stating he “knew” what was “coming next” for the girl and her family. Speaking to NPR, he said “These people really had no idea about this news. And it was hard to take these pictures, knowing what was coming next.” Naturally, news outlets have latched on to his words, only leading to heightened tensions from the public. The real kicker comes from Border Patrol agent Carlos Ruiz, who photographer Moore was riding with that night. Ruiz has since admitted the toddler was crying only briefly, during the “two minutes” it took to search the girl’s mother. By his own admission, he concluded “[the media] are using it to symbolize a policy and that was not the case in this picture.”
Regardless of one’s personal or political feelings in regards to the Trump administration and its border policies, it’s apparent that in this case, things have escalated out of control. The internet has run wild with outrage, circulating the image at a rapid pace before any real context had been provided. The media ran with it, too, in what has been a stark reminder of how easily reputations can be damaged. Although clearly a photo composite, TIME’s depiction of Trump towering over the crying child has only caused heightened tensions towards him. It only reinforces that photography can be used to shape the way in which world events are depicted to the rest of the globe.