Photography and Evil

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by craig, Jun 12, 2005.

  1. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    We recently ran a page one photo of a wounded Iraqi in a hospital. Not a heaping amount of blood, but this guy was clearly in a lot of pain. The editors had to explain their choice. The answer was simple "there is a war going on". I almost applauded them.

    War photography is very foreign to me. The closest I ever came to danger was a couple of "beat downs" and April 29 1995 ("LA swine not guilty; who's down for the payback of Florence and Normandy") riots in Brooklyn, NY.

    I think photography by nature is subjective. As soon as you point the lens you may be only conveying your view and not the whole picture. I am reminded of the famous Eddie Adams photo of Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon. The photo sparked a lot of debate in the states to say the least. The story that was not particularly evident was that the prisoner committed 8 murders. "War is hell". After that moment Adams and Gen. Loan became friends. Neither one could live down the impact of that photo. Adams said two people died that day; Loan and the prisoner.

    Is CNN's version of the war in Iraq the war that soldiers and civilians experience? How are decisions made. I mean that there are also crimes against humanity in South and latin America? Why do we need to see the war on page one? If we choose the flower shot over the war shot for the lede are we turning our backs on a war that is arguably the most important thing in the world today?


    Clearly war photos are dramatic. I pretend that I can relate to the photo, because I feel many powerful emotions. In reality I only have a frozen moment. That is just me. The photos do spark a greater good such as getting involved.

    Maybe war is not evil...

    Along the same lines; what are your thoughts on pornography? Not child porn but porn in general. I think Wired mag wrote that 75% of all internet hits are on porno sites. Are these photos a marital aid or the exploitation of women?

    All of these questions strongly rely on personal views and or perceptions. There may be no correct answers. None the less I feel that it is important to address these issues.

    I purposely did no research on these subjects. Hertz is gonna kill me, but I wanted to stick to my own senseless ramblings.

    You could search Susan Sonntag's article (for the NY Times) on the images from Abu Gharib prison. A search for "essays on porn" may provide some thoughts as well
     
  2. darin3200

    darin3200 TPF Noob!

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    No, CNN does a 10 second soundbyte on a sucicide bombing can never touch on how many people it affected, etc..
    There are crimes against humanity in way too many countries, however the public doesn't seem to care a lot because the media often chooses not to report on it. That's why photojournalism is important in documenting a lot of this. When James Nachtwey wanted to do a report on the terrible condition in Romanian orphanages none of the major new organizations would support him and he had to go on his own money, only later to sell the pictures.
    Why do you put pictures on the ledge, for a reminder of the suffering in the world or because it is aesthetically pleasing and you enjoy looking at it. There is also AIDs, starvation, racism, and many other terrible things in the world, far to many to fit on the ledge. Recognizing the importance and need for action on the bad in the world is key, but dwelling on it doesn't help, we also need to look for the good in the world as too guidance of what the bad is.

    Even though the photograph is only a frozen moment, through it is conveyed many emotions. Most people would care about things like the current crisis in Darfur if they were more exposed to it. There is a difference between hearing than so many people have died, and seeing photographs of a mother burying her dead child. In contrast, in the movie "Hotel Rwanda" a video war photographer gets footage of people being killed with machetes in the street and the hotel manager is happy because now the world will see what is happening and that help will soon arrive. The camerman says something to the effect that the people in the West will see the images and say "Oh, that's bad" and return to eating their dinner.

    All wars include death, pain and suffering far beyond the reach of those select few who start the conflicts. Any more, wars aren't what we think about with armies, fronts, and strategies. Wars today are more genocidal and all people are the soilders.
    That statistic seems a little high, but consider that a single person could make hundreds of pornography sites every day using a same basic template. If 99% of the internet was pornography, would that negate the value of sites like Wikipedia or The Photo Forum.

    There are so many books and articles and opinions of this topic that it will probably never be decided. There is information that says convicted rapists often repeat what they see in violent pornography and nearly all feminists are against it. But to offer a different point, some feminists argue that it gives women domain over their body and voids societal constructs of women as 'pure', for instance, why not mention the degradation and exploitation of men as a result of pornography?

    Very true, if nothing else we gain perspective on our own views and their justification
    And I shall stick to mine :)
    I'll look into the artice. I actually took a college ethics class that had a chapter devoted to the ethics of pornography, a lot of statistics in it. I could scan it for you if you're intested. (I just got a new scanner with optical character recognition built it :D)
     
  3. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    You are opening up a whole lot of canned worms with this. Many factors come into play.
    Human motives are many and complex.
    A war photographer usually becomes a war photographer because they like the thrill of the danger - even though they won't usually admit it. But at the same time they have the conviction that if they didn't photograph what was happening then no-one would know.
    A lot of the reasons why the US finally pulled out of Vietnam was to do with the images sent back by people like Tim Page. The folks back home don't think about what a war is until they see pictures of people being maimed and killed - then it becomes real to them.
    There have been parallels with famines and other natural disasters. No one knows or cares until they see the pictures - then the relief effort gets underway.
    The best thing I can think of is to quote one war photographer I talked to (I think it was McCullin). He had taken some horrifying pictures of a child being seriously injured during a battle. I asked him how he could take pictures of something like that. Why didn't he put down the camera and try and help?
    His reply: I helped that child in the only way I could. I don't know first aid so I couldn't help in that way - and there were others nearby who went to help. So I took pictures so the rest of the world could see the true horror of what was happening and maybe do something to stop it. I couldn't help that child - but between us we could maybe save others from the same fate.

    As for papers - the owners have their political aims and the editors want to sell papers.
    We like to look at pictures like that because of the visceral thrill. We can see pain, death and destruction safe in the knowledge that it isn't happening to us.

    As for straight porn. Quite a few people involved in it do it because they like doing it or they don't mind doing it - and the money is good. See it as just another job with people working in an area where they have a talent.
    As for exploitation, a porn actress once told me that she though it was her doing the exploiting. 'All those men paying serious money to see pictures of me being naughty just so they can fantasize about me while they have a wank... It kinda excites me - and it's paid for my house and car'.
    It is my belief that when people bang on about how porn is evil and exploits people there is more than a tinge of envy in there. Often what we say is the opposite of what is going on in our subconcious - but what we discover in there shocks us, and we don't want others to think we are pervs.
    But we mustn't forget that, like prostitution, a lot of the people are in there doing it out of desperation. They use whatever they have to get out of poverty - and all they have is their bodies. And there are always people around willing to make money by exploitation - just look at any big business.

    Is Photography evil? No. Photography is neutral - it just depends upon who is doing it and what they are using it for.
     
  4. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the detailed responses! It is no doubt a huge can of worms. Again there are no correct answers. On closer reflection I think I would like to leave the general media out of the discussion. Questioning CNN's perception of world events is a whole other story.

    As photographers do we owe the viewer and or the editor a certain image? Obviously we need to illustrate the event and convey emotion. What if the editor chose the shot of the minor scuffle in an otherwise peaceful demonstration. Would you call bs and stand by your selection? Furthermore would you toss that photo as opposed to sending it to AP. It conveys drama and it did happen, so what is the problem?

    Let us say that that Vanity Fair sent me to Darfur or Baghdad. Lets say that "Drunk Teens on X.com" sent me to cover an orgy. I bet that either way I come back with some strong images. At what point am I just recording the scene? Does the way I view the shot fall by the way side?

    War and pornography are only used only used for illustrative purposes. May be it all comes down to our perception of "what is a responsible photographer"
     
  5. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    One of the reasons I stopped working in Advertising was it offended my morals.
    I had to do a shot for a drugs company to sell aspirins or some such.
    The AD got a model in and dressed him up as a doctor. I pointed out that it was against Advertising Standards rules to have someone pretend to be a medical professional to endorse and sell a product. We'd get taken to court.
    The AD laughed and said the ad was for use in Africa so those rules didn't apply.
    My response was to tell him that I would have to check that position with with Advertising Standards and my solicitor before I could take the picture to make sure I wouldn't be prosecuted. The AD sacked me.
     
  6. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    I have come to terms with advertising. Of course that is a whole other story. I know the business. Extra credit for getting out while you still have your sanity. Laughing out Loud! I am not sure you have (jokingly of course) that so let us say health.

    I am sure that the states have Advertising Standards. I have never bothered to look. That definetly puts me in the "not so responsible" category". I think I would have questioned the shot as well.
     
  7. Floyd

    Floyd TPF Noob!

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    There is a great difference between a war photograph which is graphic and shows the realities of war and a powerful political war photograph that os good. Just because it's bloody and distresses you doesn't make it good or any more powerful.
     
  8. elsaspet

    elsaspet TPF Noob!

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    God, that's so true. (And yes Hertz, you ARE God!:hail: )

    I was driving home last week when I noticed a big semi trailer on the side of the road with about 20 cop cars from both Dallas and Fort Worth behind it. There were news cameras there, so I pulled over, parked, and ran in with my camera.
    I was standing with the tv guys and the police were about to bust into the back of the bigrig. The tv guys were talking about how they hoped the rig was full of dying illegals, or chocked full of cocaine, or something good like that......It freaked me out for a minute, and then I started to think that it WOULD make it a very sellable news photograph. I think that freaked me out even more....that I had that thought.

    It's hard to know what to do sometimes.
     
  9. JohnMF

    JohnMF TPF Noob!

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    that comment reminds me of the photographer George Rodgers, he took photographs of the Concentration Camp Belsen, as it was liberated by British forces towards the end of the second world war.

    he was disgusted with him self when he realised that he was thinking about the composition and how the bodies could be arranged to make the best photograph.

    here is his quote:

    He could never bring himself to look at the photographs he had taken of belsen.

    one thing did happen to Rodgers before he died which helped him resolve some issues. A man contacted him years later and told him that he had appeared in one of his photographs of Belsen as a boy, and that because of this photograph he was recognised by family relatives and re-united with his parents...

    If anyone is interested here is a link to that photograph
     

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