Typo or a hoax or racism or what?

I’ve seen this several places:

(Click for better look) This copy from here.

Now, not all of them that I’ve seen have had the red circles, and some of them have had three images instead of these two. But they all appear to be from the same source as they look pasted together the exact same way.

My question concerns the wording on the second image: “after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store”.

You don’t find something from somewhere unless you find it elsewhere, do you? As in “we found this bread from the grocery store floating down the street”.

The pictures as presented seem to imply that black people “loot” and white people “find”, but I wonder (sitting here in all my middle-class whiteness) if this isn’t perhaps a hoax.

Did anyone see the original images and captions before they began to be posted everywhere? I looked but had no luck. (see UPDATE below)

Or could this caption mean that the bread and soda is from a local grocery store and that the people found it elsewhere?

Of course, maybe this is exactly what it seems that critics are claiming it is, too.

Any ideas?

UPDATE: Okay…not a hoax. I found the pic here and the caption displayed above is correct.

However, after seeing the clearer original at Yahoo, I even wonder if that woman is white. The more I think about it, the dumber this issue seems to me.

Is that just because I’m white, though?

UPDATE 2: Yahoo! News has linked to a statement on the controversy surrounding the captions of these photos which pretty much confirms what I suggested in the comments section. I wrote:

For all we know the reporter that filed pic #1 saw the black guy go into a store and loot it and the reporter that filed pic #2 saw the bread floating out of a smashed store and saw the woman grab it as it went by.

Although the Yahoo! statement is one of the typical nothings you’d expect in this sort of situation, they do link to a few other sites that note the controversy.

Salon has this:

The images were both published on Tuesday by Yahoo News. “We don’t edit photo captions,” Yahoo P.R. manager Brian Nelson told Salon. “Sometimes we take a look at the photos and we’ll choose to pull photos, but the captions run as is.” A search of AP and Getty’s image databases confirms that Yahoo News did not alter either of the photo captions before posting them online.


The AP database includes two other images from the same scene by photographer Dave Martin that refer to looters in the captions, though neither actually shows an explicit act of looting. Jack Stokes, AP’s director of media relations, confirmed today that Martin says he witnessed the people in his images looting a grocery store. “He saw the person go into the shop and take the goods,” Stokes said, “and that’s why he wrote ‘looting’ in the caption.”

Santiago Lyon, AP’s director of photography, told Salon that all captions are vetted by editors and are the result of a dialogue between editor and photographer. Lyon said AP’s policy is that each photographer can describe only what he or she actually sees. He added, “When we see people go into businesses and come out with goods, we call it ‘looting.'” On the other hand, he said, “When we just see them carrying things down the road, we call it ‘carrying items.'”

“Carrying items” refers to the third photo that is sometimes included with the two here. Regarding the photo with the “finding” caption:

Regarding the AFP/Getty “finding” photo by Graythen, Getty spokeswoman Bridget Russel said, “This is obviously a big tragedy down there, so we’re being careful with how we credit these photos.” Russel said that Graythen had discussed the image in question with his editor and that if Graythen didn’t witness the two people in the image in the act of looting, then he couldn’t say they were looting.

But if he didn’t witness an act of looting, how did Graythen determine where the items came from, or if they were “found”? “I wish I could tell you,” Russel said. “I haven’t been able to talk to Chris.”

“The only thing I can tell you is they don’t assume one way or another,” she added.

That’s not much to go on, really. But Poynter Online poynts out a Sports Shooter message (a little over half-way down at 6:10 PM on the 31st) purportedly by the photographer:

Please stop emailing me on this one.

I wrote the caption about the two people who ‘found’ the items. I believed in my opinion, that they did simply find them, and not ‘looted’ them in the definition of the word. The people were swimming in chest deep water, and there were other people in the water, both white and black. I looked for the best picture. there were a million items floating in the water – we were right near a grocery store that had 5+ feet of water in it. it had no doors. the water was moving, and the stuff was floating away. These people were not ducking into a store and busting down windows to get electronics. They picked up bread and cokes that were floating in the water. They would have floated away anyhow. I wouldn’t have taken in, because I wouldn’t eat anything that’s been in that water. But I’m not homeless. (well, technically I am right now.)

I’m not trying to be politically correct. I’m don’t care if you are white or black. I spent 4 hours on a boat in my parent’s neighborhood shooting, and rescuing people, both black and white, dog and cat. I am a journalist, and a human being – and I see all as such. If you don’t belive me, you can look on Getty today and see the images I shot of real looting today, and you will see white and black people, and they were DEFINATELY looting. And I put that in the caption.

He has lost his home, as have his parents and grandparents. He said don’t bother him about spelling and grammar because he’s eating his first meal in three days.

Unless this turns out to be a fake message, I really think this issue is closed. I realize that those intent upon seeing racism will still see it, but I can’t help that.


  1. Hi, I’m glad that you did further research to find that it was not a hoax. I think the fact that the grammar didn’t even fit the word ‘finding’ makes the usage even more egregious. You are entirely entitled to your own opinion. But to answer your questions, the reason why I don’t think it’s ‘dumb’ follows: You have two photos of people in the exact same situation most likely doing the exact same thing. (We don’t know for sure–the couple may have killed a bunch of people to get what’s in the bag, so might have the young boy but basically it seems most likely that both groups were hungry and decided to grab some food and drinks.) The subjects are judged entirely differently. One has ‘found’ something they needed while the other has does something the president has proclaimed that we have ‘zero tolerance for’. In one picture, there are two people, one white and the other ambiguous. In the other we have a young black male. Whether it’s intentional or not, it certainly perpetuates racism against young black males. I don’t think being upset by that is ‘dumb’.

  2. xian: I’m not really disagreeing with you in principle but if the second photo is of people with bread that they ‘found’ floating in the road and it’s ‘from’ the local grocery store, it’s grammatically correct and is not looting. For all we know the reporter that filed pic #1 saw the black guy go into a store and loot it and the reporter that filed pic #2 saw the bread floating out of a smashed store and saw the woman grab it as it went by. We just don’t have enough information to really know. However, I will totally agree that on the surface it doesn’t look particularly good. As an aside, it also depends on what’s in that bag. I can see bread and soda being needed. If that bag in the pic #1 is full of food, then this might be something. If that bag is full of DVDs or something, comparing the two isn’t fair.

  3. So what my long explanation meant was ‘I don’t think the racism discussion is ‘dumb’, I think trying to have a racism discussion based upon this particular incident is ‘dumb’ because there are so many uknowns’.

  4. Another thing is the time difference between the two images. The ‘finding’ image is from several hours before the ‘looting’ image. While that’s not a lot of time, the coverage certainly changed a lot because of when in the storm’s passage those hours were. Earlier on there was a lot less talk of ‘looters’, sort of like terrorists are often not called ‘terrorists’. This could be the case here. I know it sounds like I’m defending the different wording, but I’m not. What I’m saying is that there really isn’t enough to go on to determine whether this was intentional racism or not. It should be pointed out, but definitive it is not.

  5. Black man say: Racism! White man say: Those poor white people! I say: …well, nothing, I put the history channel back on and enjoy making fun of Goldberg’s tree-trunk he calls a neck.

  6. I am so tired of this crap. Racism is one of those things that you dont have to look for. Racism is blantant like White Only signs in front of a fountain or restraunt that is racism. All of this hunt for racism here thier everywere is just BS. Personally I believe that if people just quit looking and searching for racism it would end. The constant bringing it up is what keeps the little bit that is left alive and going or at least the impression of. Getto people do dum stuff that is why they are in the getto in the first place the fact that a lot of them are black dont mean anything it is just a strange quincadence that poor blacks usually live in the inner city were as poor whites usually stay either in the country or the occational trailer park in the city of course with a little bit of each mixed in backwards.