Thursday, May 28, 2009

One Hundredth of a Second (2)/By way of an answer

[Holger and Kerstin said:]

“what's the photographer’s opinion on it?”

This is obviously a multidimensional issue and I can only give you my thoughts on it.

There is foremost the moral dimension. The question is whether the photojournalist could have done anything in this situation to save the life of the young girl - either by stepping in or drawing attention to herself. Most likely the answer is that she could not have done anything to save the life of the girl. If she had made herself known to the perpetrator most likely she would have been killed as well.

The second moral issue or question is whether the photojournalist had the right to take the image of the murdered girl ex post and get it published. I would suggest that she had the right and in her situation almost a moral obligation to take the picture and create a document, evidence of a heinous murder, of an evil act. Only by doing this she can draw the attention of a broader audience to the fact that a war is going on, that civilians suffer and injustice is committed. And maybe as important: with a photographic document of these acts of barbarism no one in his or her right mind can question sixty years later that there have been atrocities in Auschwitz, Srebrenica, or Ruanda to name but a very few.

I also think that there is a practical dimension: I guess the photojournalist simply operated on some kind of autopilot. She did what she set out to do: photograph the war. So I presume that it was almost a reflex to take such an image without much thought about the moral dimension.

Image copyright: Anthony Suau for Time.

There is maybe another dimension in that a photograph like that of the murdered girl would most likely not win any reputable competition (e.g. World Press Photo) anymore. The assessment of what juries of such competitions consider an appropriate and “useful” document has evolved over the past few years. Look for example at last year’s winner, Anthony Suau, at his photo of a police officer checking a foreclosed home. It is far more subtle and multilayered than if Suau had simply shown the eviction of residents of a foreclosed home. It is more about stepping back and showing more than one aspect in an image that is a winning combination – even if that means that the photograph is more difficult to read.

Your thoughts?


Thomas Ball said...

really interesting to see the short movie and to read your answer. It's a tough one isn't it. T

Holger said...

this migth be boring but i agree. i share your opinion in every aspect. i don't know much about those competitions though i remember that one photo of an execution shot from the hip somewhere in africa. i thought that picture was valuable, but i am also glad that those pictures aren't 'the shit' anymore.

i am asking myself the same question the photographer in the movie probably asks herself: could she have saved the girl?