Dec 28, 2010
EMBEDDED PHOTOGRAPHY PRODUCES EMBEDDED OPINION
This is a post that will move some reaction, and probably many will think there is something personal.. My intentions wish to go much further then individual photographers experiences and stories.
When I see war images nowadays I mostly see stories shoot while embedded within an Army, or escorted by some force. There are some personal and regional exception, of course, and sometimes I see a story as "seen and told" from the "other side".
In certain cases it might be the relative facility to access a difficult situation (and also the relative safety) to induce the photographer to go this way, but the larger reality is that the big guys have learned the lesson and are avoiding the old mistakes.
It's well known that the US lost the Vietnam war more for the protests back home then for the Vietcong fighters. They just don't want this to happen again. So they will not allow photographers and journalists to go too close to certain realities, and even less to tell the story from the opposed side. This is understandable, but not acceptable.
We hear frequent reports of civilian victims in Afghanistan due to mistaken military actions, but I have never seen photos of those victims. In Vietnam the Mylay massacre on the contrary sparkled open discussions and criticism on certain behaviour of the army toward the population.
Even worse, introducing the concept of privacy (in a war? Please! nothing is private for a soldier in a war!) the governments are now asking not to publish images of wounded or dead soldiers (even their coffins going back home were off-limits to reporters). Again, you may remember how impressive were the photos of actual wounded and suffering young Americans in Vietnam.
The worst part though is the general assumption that there are no doubts on the rightness of an action or a war, or better, no doubts should be stated in the media. Of course I'm not defending the Talebans, or Saddam Hussein, but I have never read of any possible argument the other side could stand for. There was open criticism on the rightness of the Iraq intervention, but never a discussion on principles.
Going back to war photography today. I see very good images of "our" soldiers in action, their tensions, some interactions with civilians. Some of these works are really strong (think of the Restrepo documentary), and telling these stories is good. But it's an incomplete panorama for most of the reportages I see: where are the civilians? Where are the enemies? Where are the consequences of the fights on both sides?
If photojournalism will not fight to get it's independence back it will lose all it's credibility and, in the end, all the interest from the narrow market left for it. But, above all, it's a matter of intellectual and human freedom that is at stake here. We criticise China for it's media control without seeing that the Western media are even more "controlled". We have to get it back! Us, the photographers.
at 11:29 AM