The one image we didn't need to see from the Sydney shark attack.

Last night a young woman was attacked by a shark in Sydney Harbour. 

Lauren O'Neill was having an evening swim at a private wharf in Elizabeth Bay at about 7.45pm when the suspected bull shark latched onto her leg, leaving her seriously injured. 

Paramedics and intensive care paramedics including an ambulance helicopter rushed to the scene to help as the woman suffered extensive blood loss. 

A neighbour who happened to be a veterinarian had applied a tourniquet by the time they arrived, but the 29-year-old was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. 

Watch a news report on the story below (photo thankfully not included).

Video via Nine

Sydneysiders are being warned to stay out of the harbour until further notice as Primary Industries investigates. 

All of the above, is relevant and important information to know. When a person is attacked in a public place, it's in the public interest to detail the who, when, where, what. 

News is a very visual medium, so imagery is an important part of that. 

But there's one image doing the rounds that I can't get out of my brain; an empty wharf covered in human blood. 


I understand photos of paramedics at the scene. Of a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance. I particularly understand shots of the beach and wharf to help set the scene. What I don't understand is a close-up - and in some cases circled - shot of the victim's blood. And yet it's all over social and news media.

There is a time and a place for visceral, graphic imagery. Even though much of it is haunting to witness, it's important for us to see the injuries and suffering coming out of Israel and Palestine for example. Or the war in Ukraine. As hard as it is to watch, the world needs to know what's happening in order to push for it to stop.

But do we need to see the blood splatter of a Sydney shark victim? It feels like unnecessary gore published to service a modern societal need to see horrible things. 

We live in a world where everything we do is photographed, published and shared. Nothing is off limits, and human curiosity means we often find ourselves seeking out details such as this. True Crime wouldn't be as popular a genre if it weren't for taped up photos of murder scenes and photos of victim's injuries. 

But this feels different, perhaps because it's happening in real-time as the woman whose blood is being photographed fights for her life. 

We watched something similar on a more gruesome scale a few years ago, when a man was fatally attacked by a shark off a Sydney headland. A video of the moment the man died filmed on an iPhone was shared far and wide. 


As Mamamia's Holly Wainwright wrote at the time, "It’s a snuff film. Nothing more... There’s a dark thrill in seeing one of our deepest fears - and shark attacks do occupy a particularly embedded primal space in our psyche - actualised." 

But what does viewing videos like that or photos such as this do to our psyche? It feels strange that we have normalised such a voyeuristic lense in which to consume news. But that's what happens when technology is jumping forward in such leaps and bounds that we've even moved beyond '24/7 news coverage.' 

We're now in an era where news often breaks first on social media platforms, where the desire for more intimacy, detail and 'realness' is ever evolving.

But at what cost? 

There needs to be such a thing as 'too much detail.' We don't need to see everything and as consumers, we need to stop seeking it out. It can't be good for us to constantly be swimming in graphic imagery unless it's absolutely necessary to the story.

A young woman, now stable, is waking up this morning in St Vincent's Hospital a few kilometres from where she was last night attacked during an evening swim. 

But all I can think about is that bloodied wharf. The image I definitely didn't need to see while reading about her story.

Feature image: Nine.