Artistic Assassinations

Turkey Russian Ambassador

I’ve droned on before about the moral arguments of discussing aesthetics in photographs that show tragic events. The same arguments can be heard today, looking at the photographs of the killing of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey last night by Mevlurt Mert Altinus, an off duty policeman at the opening of a photography exhibition in Ankara, Turkey.

Altinus shot Andrei Karlov shouting, “This is revenge for Syria” and “We die in Aleppo, you die here” as the diplomat gave an speech at the exhibition called ‘Russia Through Turks’ Eyes’. From the way the assassin acted, it is hard not to compare his act as a performance, presumably designed to attract the greatest publicity to his cause. Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici took an image that was within hours being described by Time as iconic, so much so that whilst some questioned the authenticity of this image in particular, suggesting it was too perfect not to have been staged and by implication the event is a conspiracy.

It must be said it looks like Quentin Tarantino art directed the shot. But we have a number of examples of how media savvy people who commit such acts have become. The orange jumpsuits, the symbolic nature of the targets chosen for 9/11 and here. The setting (an art gallery) and the moment (during a speech by the victim, where everything was set up to facilitate the media in recording the event) the assassin had thought carefully about his dress (to blend in and look good) and intended his action to publicise his cause, which he knew would be best done by his action being as media friendly in its presentation as possible.

However, in the pause before World War 3 we might consider that the aesthetics of this act were kept from the front pages by the news from Berlin where someone drove a truck into a crowd…


Burhan Ozbilici’s photo was used in the Metro newspaper, note how the designer added a graphical flourish by letting the attacker’s finger piece the box and go into the date line.


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