A Photographer Confronts His World
A already complex, determined work gets more complex, and more determined. Matt Black once again sets a high standard of commitment and focus, bringing his sharp, searing eye to our hard, crippling reality.
By the end of the week, they had appeared on the covers of Newsweek, Time and US News & World Report. It was the first time in many years that one photographer had enjoyed such an honour.
Debate started to grow over what the US response should be. But it was only when George H.W. Bush, the then US president, announced an invasion and offered the events captured by my photographs as a justification, that I understood just what role photojournalism can play in such a conversation.
Ron Haviv, Al-Jazeera Magazine
All things are in the grip of inadequate causation; namely, they are partially determined to act by other, external things. The individualistic ethos, which is the continuation of the metaphysics of subjectivity, refuses to the last to consider such an idea. True, at stake is nothing less than its outright dissolution, and a habit of thinking and relating to oneself that is by now so entrenched will not easily give way. Except by the violence of a kind of conversion, the idea of full determination cannot readily defeat the deeply engrained belief in the faculty of self-determination on which individuals rest their identities as ‘subjects’. Yet…Spinoza discloses the genetic principle of this idea, that is, the mechanism of its begetting in the imagination: ‘men are deceived in thinking themselves free, a belief that consists only in this, that they are conscious of their actions and ignorant of the causes by which they are determined.’
Frederic Lordon, Willing Slaves of Capital; Spinoza And Marx on Desire
It’s remarkable that after all these years, and all the revelations to the media lies and propaganda that fed the build up and prosecution of this unjust, and unnecessary invasion of Panama, that a photojournalist like Ron Haviv can still brag about this work, and discuss it as if it ‘made a difference’. It is odd that he doesn’t realise that the US media, with its unquestioning repetition of government propaganda, instigated an invasion that cost the lives of many innocents! What surprises and dismays me about his statements – so entirely ahistorical, is his refusal to understand that his photo was used by the state, by the government propaganda machine, to serve a purpose that the state had already developed. His picture became a weapon of pre-emptive and planned war! Details »
You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its
flavour, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing,
but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.
Wim Wenders is a classic example of a man of bourgeois privilege blinds – possibly intentionally, to the violence and exploitation that creates his privilege. And as all such men & women, he is illiterate to the the idea of – one that Gambatista Vico so fabulously gifted mankind, that man makes the world and to understand it we must examine, with honesty and truth, man’s actions and decisions in it.
From handing prizes to embedded photojournalist James Nachtwey (yes, he does make amazing photos, but lets just also look at the interests and ideas that informs his politics shall we? I am working on a critique of Nachtwey’s life’s work that maps his ‘projects’ to the political ‘ethos’ of the time, looking to examine his close collusion with American imperial interests and the angles adopted in his Time magazine funded stories), to this white-wash of Salgado’s collusions with mining interests and his continued refusal to speak honestly about the devastating impact of unchecked capitalism, share-holder returns, outright corporate thievery and corruption, political bribery and ‘development’ and ‘growth’ addictions, Wenders embodies many of the presumptions of his class. As Laura Jaramillo points out:
Wenders is careful to shape Salgado’s interviews into a meditation on the human condition palatable for the international art-film market, not a meditation on the destructive effects of globalised capitalism. “Everyone should see these images to see how deadly our species is,” Salgado says over one particularly grisly set. Each event that feeds into his illustrious career is, not coincidentally, one of the greatest atrocities of the latter half of the 20th-century. Each is curiously disconnected from the last, presented without historical context.
disdain dismissal of most all photojournalists working on ‘immigration’ stories begins with this simple fact outlined in this excellent article titled The Story Behind The Stories, where author Rodney Benson argues that:
The complexity of the international causes of migration cannot be easily expressed as a melodrama. And mentioning them is ideologically sensitive: it suggests there could be something wrong about an economic system that most politicians — and journalists — take for granted. From the early 1970s to the mid-2000s — a time of neoliberal globalisation and bloody conflicts in Central America manipulated by the US — immigration stories that mentioned international causes fell from 30% to 12% in leading US papers. To their credit, French newspapers in the 2000s, just as in the 1970s, mentioned the global angle in 33% of their immigration news stories, mostly because of the greater prominence of anti-globalisation sentiment in French intellectual and political culture. Yet, too often, both French and US media fail to give the full picture on immigration. Their focus on emotion, and on individual stories, diverts attention from the fundamental political issues, and leaves the way open for the simplistic “solutions” advocated by the far right.
Setting back feminism every new season, the fashion world yet again undermine a woman’s struggle to free herself from the male gaze all the while suggesting that dancing to the very tunes men make is the true measure of her liberation. I quote the brilliant Judith Butler:
The female body that is freed from the shackles of the paternal law may well prove to be yet another incarnation of that law, posing as subversive but operating in the service of that law’s self-amplification and proliferation.
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (1999) (Thanks to fabulous Åsa Jansson of The Unpractical Scheme)
This was weird. The reviewer is in awe of her – power, celebrity, scion, hereditary fame, activism, beauty, western composure, oriental aesthetic, class privilege and dynastic worth.
“It’s no wonder she has consistently denied any interest in going into politics. Still, at age 32, Bhutto is more of a celebrity than most first-time fiction writers. Born in Kabul, raised in Damascus, educated in New York and London, she now lives in Karachi. She has over 850,000 followers on Twitter, where her page begins with a quote from Vladimir Nabokov that reads, “My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.”
The perfect product of the Western imagination of how the Wogs will grow up to be civilised like us. And yet, the book review, when the writer does get past fawning over her and starts to read her work, suggests a trite, cliched, pretentious work. It may not be, but that is the impression left from reading the critical review part of this hagiography. Details »
A friend sent the above to me this earlier today. Oddly, the list reminded me of Hassan Nasir.
I know most don’t know him. He was once a beautiful Pakistani man, but died after beatings and torture by the Pakistani state during the decades of anti-Communist and anti-progressive pogroms that not only destroyed any hope of an egalitarian and democratic Pakistan, but also opened the door to religio-political shennanigans meant to distract the people from their hunger, their cold, and their slow deaths. Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote of him. Our 22 boy-toys can’t quite live up to that achievement.
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”
David Foster Wallace, Whats’ Water?
We love the myth of the individual crusader. And we love it even more when the crusaders convinces us, or his/her arguments are presented as if, there is no one else but the individual. National Geographic stories are very explicitly neoliberal in this regard: there is no government, there are no policies, there is no corporation, no labor, no collectivity and hence, there is no accountability for political and corporate power and interests. The selling of the myth that only individuals exist, and the re-painting of the social and economic collapse of a city as something that has nothing to do with policy choices (of government, of corporations and the two in collusion) is ideological. All this is washed away by feel good stories of resilience because demanding accountability from your elected officials, and struggling for social and economic support goes against our current neoliberal fantasy world of individuals as personal value agents alone. Details »
Someone please send these people some skateboards (see my previous post When All Else Fails, Give Them Our Games… because their women are quite clearly in desperate need of liberation from their ‘men’! These are orthodox Jewish women in Israel, in case you cannot tell. And you would not be wrong for not being able to! Details »
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