2/07/2010

It starts to look like a tradition

Maybe I should just quit writing myself and just keep on referring you to others. Once again Asim Rafiqui writes so eloquently about things of great importance to photojournalism. I can only agree with him that it seems that the trade of photojournalism, of which I am a novice, is facing some great challenges:

"If photojournalism is struggling it is because it is trapped, mummified in a language and power relationships to its subjects that have remained unchanged in the face of a changing world and media space. Something new has to emerge to rejuvenate our work and our craft, but it is not multi-media or better digital cameras. It is a deep commitment to self-criticism and re-examination of the postures we adopt in the countries and communities we work in, and the traditional roles we have assumed for ourselves i.e. moral voice, messiah, witness, voice to the voiceless or any number of clich├ęs." Asim Rafiqui

In the Swedish photo community there have been discussions about the photographs of Fabienne Cherisma who died 15 years old. She was shot to death by a police officer in Haiti. The photograph was taken by Paul Hansen, a well respected news photographer. Even so his photograph and thus his actions have been questioned on the grounds that the photographs differ from other photographs taken later. Maybe the challenge that Rafiqui talks about is as valid for us Swedish photographers as well? I don't doubt that Paul Hansen did everything correctly. Nonetheless, the fact that his work is questioned might be symptomatic of a trade that has lost or is about to loose its importance. Can we photographers do something to prevent or maybe I should say pre-empt this progression?

I agree with Rafiqui that photographers can play a vital role in allowing others to get a better understanding of the world. But what understanding do we provide now?

"The catastrophe in Haiti must be revealed and images go a some way towards doing it. But why must they be so relentlessly exploitative and not informative? Why must they reduce the victims even further, rather than show their courage and their strengths? Why must they be so relentlessly about us, our work, our courage and our ‘role’ instead of being about those who have to actually live through and build through this catastrophe? And why must they always be the same e.g. Kashmir earthquake to Kobe to Haiti it all just ends up one big dump of similar stuff? Why is it so distant, so aloof, so demeaning, so simple, so unthinking, " Asim Rafiqui

These are some of the questions I struggle with as I'm about to start making my life as a photojournalist. Sometimes I wonder about the futility, will I ever be able to create something of value? Something that will stand the test of time and that will not turn out to negate my intentions in the end. Well, I hope to struggle with these questions from here on out. I also hope that I will have the good sense to know that it's time to quit if I ever stop asking these questions about myself and my work.

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