The Japanese journalist Ryūichi Hirokawa (b. 1943) photographed the scenes of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut on his own initiative, bringing to light the murder of hundreds of Palestinian refugees during the Lebanese Civil War. Hirokawa portrayed desperate survivors but mainly focused his lens on the numerous corpses strewn across the streets. He confronts the viewer with shocking images of the maimed faces and bodies of the victims.
His report thus raises a question that still remains unanswered today: What role should be given in media coverage to photos that are meant to shock, and what should or must one be willing to expose viewers to? Hirokawa attaches great importance to retaining control over his images. He therefore decided against selling these photos to the Associated Press agency so that he could choose for himself how they would be used and published. Hirokawa’s Israel-critical photos were published in Yomiuri Shimbun, one of the most widely read Japanese daily papers at the time, in the magazine Shagaku, and in the Japanese Playboy.
Ryūichi Hirokawa was active in the Japanese student movement and uses the camera to express his political convictions. In 1967, he worked in an Israeli kibbutz and conceived a book about destroyed Palestinian villages, which was published in Japan in 1970. After returning to Japan, Hirokawa was a staff member in the Japanese office of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).