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Turkey, earthquake. The author of the photo of the father in the orange jacket holding the hand of his dead daughter: this will be etched in my memory

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I had tears in my eyes. I kept telling myself: My God, this is unbearable pain – recalled AFP photojournalist Adem Altan. It was he who took the photo of the father in an orange jacket, who is holding the hand of his daughter, who died in the earthquake, sticking out of the rubble. In a short time it circulated the world and became a symbol of pain and the enormity of the tragedy that affected Turkey and Syria. Altan recalled that the man asked him in a hollow voice: “Take pictures of my child.” The teenager’s name was Irmak.

AFP photojournalist Adem Altan is the author of the photo from the earthquake-damaged Turkish Kahramanmaras that went around the world. The man has been working as a photojournalist for 40 years, including 15 for the French agency AFP. Shortly after the devastating earthquake on the Turkish-Syrian border, he found himself in the town of Kahramanmaras, located at the epicenter of the quake. It was there that he took a photograph depicting a man in an orange jacket holding his dead daughter’s hand. It has become a symbol of tragedy.

Turkey, earthquake. A father in an orange jacket holds his deceased daughter by the handADEM ALTAN/AFP/East News

“I kept telling myself: My God, this is unbearable pain”

The photojournalist recalled that the day after the catastrophe, when no rescue team had appeared on the spot yet, the inhabitants of the city tried to search the ruins themselves to save their loved ones.

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Altan was taking photos near the destroyed building, and at one point he saw a man in an orange jacket 60 meters away, crouching motionless by the rubble, oblivious to the chaos, noise, rain and cold. In his hand he held someone’s hand visible from under the rubble.

As he started taking pictures, he realized it was a father holding the hand of his dead teenage daughter. He didn’t let go of his hand, just watched Altan.

“Take pictures of my baby,” he said softly to the photographer, his voice cracking and trembling. He let go of his daughter’s hand for a moment to show the photographer where the 15-year-old girl lay dead, then immediately grabbed her again.

“I was very moved then,” said Altan. – I had tears in my eyes. I kept saying to myself, ‘My God, this is unbearable pain,’ he added.

“My daughter, Irmak.” Photo as a symbol of pain after a disaster

Then he asked the man for the baby’s name. “My daughter, Irmak,” replied the father. He added that his name is Mesut Hancer.

He spoke with difficulty, in a very low voice. It was difficult to ask him more questions, because people around asked everyone for silence, so that they could hear the possible voices of people still alive trapped under the rubble – says the photographer. He admitted that at that moment he thought that this photo summed up the pain of all victims of the earthquake. But he didn’t expect it to become so famous.

The AFP photojournalist said that later, when this moment immortalized by him circulated on social media and online portals around the world, he received thousands of messages expressing solidarity and emotion in the face of the sadness of this broken father. – I think this photo will be etched in my memory. Many have told me that they will never forget this image,” Altan said.

Main photo source: ADEM ALTAN/AFP/East News

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