Sunday, February 4, 2007

Some worthwhile reading

With the World Press Photo Award winners about be announced--some critical thoughts from Jim Johnson in his Feb 4 post at (NOTES ON) POLITICS, THEORY & PHOTOGRAPHY, especially this quote further down in the post.

What the PDN folk note is that the preponderance of winners deal with matters of suffering and grief and pain in one or another form. They also suggests that sometimes the judges select an under-reported story. What they do not note, but what the examples I've lifted here suggest, is that the overwhelming majority of the winning images focus on a single individual. They invite compassion - vicarious identification with the pain of an other. Hence, as Hannah Arendt tells us, they are de-politicizing in the sense that they direct attention away from general or aggregate level matters. And since most of the circumstances (most obviously epidemics, war, famine, genocide, industrial accidents, forced displacement, etc., but also often purportedly "natural" disasters) that cause the pain and grief and suffering depicted in the pictures have political causes, the winning images point us in precisely the wrong direction. That is what is wrong with the conventions of photo-journalism.

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