Considering the Ankara Assassination Photos As History Painting

Jerry Saltz writing on Burhan Ozbilici’s powerful photographs of the assassination of Russian ambassador Andrey G. Karlov in Istanbul:

In this image, frozen perpetual motion — an entire scene of action and worldview is caught in an instant. Notice the picture is in perfect focus. This is not the shaky, out-of-focus, ill-framed onlooker iPhone shot of assassinations and revolutions past. Ozbilici is obviously a pro, there on assignment — in a dark irony, on assignment to cover an art party. And the setting is surely an element of the image’s strangeness — again, it feels both quotidian and “staged.” The gallery lighting balances and color-corrects everything, theatricalizes it all the more, making the action that much more striking. Look close and notice the key factor: This picture is taken from eye level. The photographer isn’t running away, hiding, in another room or in a crouch. Whether cravenly or by instinct, the photographer immediately reacted, moved into the action from almost straight on and framed the picture perfectly. He or she values frontality, clarity, structure, density, form. This is far from an accidental image. This is a radically self-determined picture, instantly polemical, powerfully formal.

Worth linking here is the New York Times summation of the assassination, which not only has more of Ozbilici’s photos in higher resolution, but also gives more context to the act itself:

Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated at an Ankara art exhibit on Monday evening by a lone Turkish gunman shouting “God is great!” and “don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” in what the leaders of Turkey and Russia called a provocative terrorist attack.

The gunman, described by Turkish officials as a 22-year-old off-duty police officer, also wounded at least three others in the assault on the envoy, Andrey G. Karlov, which was captured on video. Turkish officials said the assailant was killed by other officers in a shootout.