Responses and Responsibilities

Photographies powers of persuasion
Has photography made us charity blind…compassion fatigue (as Sontag would argue)
Was the Alan Kurdi image more powerful because of it’s serenity where we are used to seeing the more graphic violence that war produces?
We are shaped and fashioned and educated, not by our experiences, but by representation within media(Chandler, 2007, p.81)
Ritchin asks how we can create images that can give rise to change
Why was Joe Rosenthal’s shot of US marines raising a flag on Iwo Jima so iconic? Icons that become so ingrained within our viewing culture (language?) that they become replicated in order to reference what they originally stood for (Rosenthal’s shot ‘copied’ at the site of 9/11) Franklin states his image was “a symbol of patriotism, pride & strength…on a day where nearly every other image pictured death and destruction.” Which standpoint was more authentic? The mourning destructive or the defiant patriotic?
David Levi Strauss “an aesthetic or an anaesthetic?”
Joel Meyerowitz (Aftermath 2001) are his detailed urban landscapes of ground zero more powerful than the images taken of the horror unfolding? “more brutal, our sense of normality disrupted”
Are still images more powerful than the moving image? Are some events so shocking they leave an indelible trace in our conscious (or conscience ?)
Is aftermath style photojournalism a “new aesthetics that re-engages our numbed consciousness?” “Sombre melancholia was a seductive mode for the still image” (Campany, 2003)
What images do you remember?
Why is this?
Where did you see them?
Al Jasera accused CNN of not showing the truth of the war & just showing a sanitised version of images. Is this any less propaganda than the Nazi part rallies of the 1930’s? (mirrored in similar imagery coming out of North Korea at the moment)
Salgado…aestheticising tragedy? elicit feelings of guilt & pity, but will never provide information for change (Levi Strauss)
What types of images provoke change for you?
What sort of aesthetic do they employ?
Is today’s news coverage sanitised, censored or truthful?
ISIS head-cam footage carries a video-game first-person-shooter aesthetic which creates a fantasy vs reality juxtaposition so we are unsure where truth lies.
“The pervasive nature of the photograph in the information age…a new world of mediated visibility” (Thomson)
Documentary photography tried to change the world, but didn’t really succeed so we need to find something new to re-arouse our conscience
Do the amateur snap-shots being circulated of (Iraqui’s for example) re-humanise them and bring them into becoming ‘us’ and no longer ‘them’ in a way that professional journalism is no longer able to successfully show?
Are we desensitised to images of conflict today?
What imagery provokes change for you?
And why is this?

Why am I bothering with my project when ISIS are executing gay men by throwing them off buildings

Good Intentions – Ingrid Sischy

Concerned Photography aesthetic
Salgado’s images “bestow honour on the people in them” – spokesphotographer for a people and their way of life; worthy ambition! His visual rhetoric goes in for aura; is sloppy with symbolism. Is his work worshipped rather than examined? Disparity between intention and results. tries to show the tragedy while also the dignity of the people. How the image of the victim can perpetuate victimisation. “To aestheticise tragedy is the fastest way to anaesthetics the feelings of those who are witnessing it. Beauty is a call to admiration, not to action.” “certain gimmicks and attitudes…designed to trigger specific reactions and reflexes that are insulting to the people being portrayed” adds up to aesthicisation and not reportage “emotional black mail fuelled by a dramatics of art direction”

The Environment and Eye

Which are the most powerful and how to they achieve their message? Subject matter; use of text (Barthes Anchorage) and aesthetics
Sebastiao Salgado’s Genesis attempts to “reveal the pristine environments that are under threat “ ; “pictorial depiction of the lands and lives of a still pristine planet…this is what is in peril, this is what we must save.” (Salgado in Lebus, 2013). I find myself more drawn to the beauty of the exquisite image as opposed to the subject matter & I am more attuned than most at picking a message from an image – the message of the campaign would probably be lost under the aesthetics for a large part of the viewing public. When it comes to the days of life Saldago insists we should try to preserve – is this not just another form of cultural empiricism?
Nick Brandt (Inherit the Dust 2015( large scale pictures of the animals that used to roam the ‘apocalyptic’ wastelands)) “we are in danger of annihilating in a few shorts years what it took our planet millions of years to create” far more accusatory than Saldago’s Genesis. Personally feel Brandt’s message is more easily read as well as more powerful.
Campany, David (2003) Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of Late Photography, in Green, David (ed) (2003) Where is the Photograph? Maidstone: Photoworks [online] Available at

Chandler, Daniel (2007) Semiotics: The Basics London: Routledge

Levi Strauss, David (2003) Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography & Politics New York: Aperture

Ritchin, Fred (2013) Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary & the Citizen New York: Aperture

Sischy, Ingrid (1991) ‘Good Intentions’ in The New Yorker (9th September 1991) [online] Available at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s