Whether it is writing, photography or artwork, the act of revealing, of stripping away to the very core of a human being or culture can be a violent process. Indeed, some cultures around the world rightfully fear that their soul is being robbed when a camera’s lens is focused on them. Compounding this is the use and tone of our language to describe the photographic process. We “shoot” pictures. Then there is the “snap-shot,” or this one – “shooting from the hip,” as if our cameras were six-shooters slung in a pair of holsters.
In Bullet Dodger, I described photojournalist – turned artist – Luc Delahye’s work as epic. In Vision of Peace?, I published photojournalist Harikrishna’s take on war photography. In his comments to Emerging Photog, he summarily called all war photography as pornographic. I am not sure if that makes all war photographers pornographers, but that pornography is a form of violence is a well-known fact. Perhaps he means that the resulting images from a war are simply consumed by us with sadistic pleasure?
“all war photographers are naïve, in the sense that naïveté is a precondition of heroism, and all war photographers are either cast in or aspire to the heroic mould, but most, consequently, are unwitting commercial if not political stooges.”
Remembering Hari’s comments, I sent him the link to Paul’s post and he promptly asked me to check out an interview on The Brooklyn Rail with David Levi Strauss. While Melancholy Rhino is appalled and very critical of how images from war have become a commodity (under the pretense of art), the Strauss interview is concerned with issues of representation and propaganda during war time.
I am also in the midst of reading Susan Sontag‘s article Looking At War: Photography’s view of devastation and death, in the December 9, 2002 issue of The New Yorker.
I am tempted to post this well after I have munched on all of this heavy reading. But let me put this out there. Comments welcome. If you have other readings or interpretations of war photography, please chime in.