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For Horrific Injuries, The Image Is The Story

Photo: Ross D. Franklin/AP

Suns guard Isaiah Canaan suffered an ankle injury in Wednesday’s game against the Mavericks, but “ankle injury” is putting it lightly. That it was immediately described with the words “Gordon Hayward-like” might provide a clue to the severity, or maybe it’s the image in which the heel of Canaan’s foot is visible despite the rest of his front side facing the camera.

In sports photography you’ll usually find shots of a player grimacing in pain after an injury, but the photos taken by Ross D. Franklin of the Associated Press are rare in that it was a case of “perfect” timing. Canaan’s left ankle is still in the process of fracturing. His face hasn’t fully expressed what he’s going to feel. His teammates and opponents haven’t yet recoiled or turned away. It’s a striking but not explicit image: There are no jutting bones or blood, but it’s clear that something has gone awry.


Franklin actually submitted three photos of Canaan’s fall. They can be found in order below. As a warning, the third one shows the actual ankle breaking.

This is going to read like a boast, but it very much isn’t: There are other media outlets that refuse to show any of these photos or video. They’ll write about and describe Canaan’s injury but tell their audience to go search it out for themselves if they’re so curious. (I’d mention them in the post, but you can go search them out for yourselves if you’re so curious.) Aside from the obvious self-righteousness of making a point of announcing this, the logic for this stance doesn’t quite hold: This injury, which happened in front of a crowd and on national TV, was OK to watch live, because you didn’t know it was going to happen, but if you want to watch it after the fact, you’re sick.

Suppose a person didn’t catch a Mavs-Suns game live on a Wednesday night. Suppose that person heard everyone was talking about Canaan’s injury, and when that person went online to see what happened to him, that person instead found no images but a directive to go somewhere else. Whose interests does that serve? No one is being forced to look at Canaan’s broken ankle, but if they’re seeking it out, they shouldn’t have to skip from outlet to outlet to find it.


TV networks have practices in place for how to show particularly gruesome injuries, and there are ways to inform a viewing audience without shoving a broken ankle in their faces. Photography’s different. The picture is the thing. Franklin couldn’t have known that his tumbling subject was about to suffer a severe injury; he just shot. Because of that, he created an incredible photo of a horrific moment.

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