From Headman To Hitman

Another photographer turns up at another recently manufactured ‘traditional’ culture, and produces yet another set of racist, reductive and entirely fake images. I don’t mean ‘fake’ in the way that most photographer’s get all concerned about. I mean ‘fake’ in a much more serious way, one that reduces people to social, political and historical caricatures and makes them into concocted objects for class titillation and voyeurism. And this American magazine–mired deep in the heart of American imperialism, its violence and its brutality–publishes the images and accompanies them with what can only be described as one of the most incredibly ahistorical, obfuscatory and infantile articles I have read outside of stuff frequently published by Time Magazine and/or The New York Times.

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Photographs Are No Longer Enough

So, here is a Masterclass in photojournalism, particularly for European photojournalists producing works on immigration, refugees and Africa. It is a Masterclass in how not to work as a photographer / photojournalist working on stories of immigration, refugees and the European fear of ‘the Other’.

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And, What Is Your Favourite Colour Of Photographer?

Brent Lewis, a Senior Photo Editor at ESPN’s The Undefeated has realised that there aren’t enough ‘photographers of colour’ that he can commission for assignments, and believes that other editors have a similar problem. And his solution–classically technocratic and technological–is to create a ‘database’ of coloured photographers and, without ever once questioning or examining the more difficult structural and political reasons for the issue, resolve the issue. And in the process, albeit inadvertently, Lewis has entrenched the very problem of culturally, ethnically, and racially stereotyping photographers and restricting them to their little ghettoised speciality social, cultural, and physical geographies. He needs more black and brown people to go cover more black and brown events. 

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Scratching At My Skin

“I have been stereotyped: my life and lived experiences negated by photo editors in the USA in particular. My editors in the USA in particular. I am nothing but my ethnicity, a man from my country of my birth 42 years ago. My name marks me as a ‘Muslim’, my ethnicity marks me as a ‘South Asian’, my birth marks me for work within the confines of the geography of the country of my birth. My birth on an unexceptional day in Karachi nearly 42 years ago was of greater interest and relevance than the nearly 18 years I spent studying, working, learning, and becoming in the United States of America (a country of which I am a citizen). I am the ‘Pakistani’ photographer and never allowed to be anything else, or asked to be elsewhere.”

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A Rainbow Prohibition

Anastasia Taylor-Lind wants more diversity in the photojournalism industry. and has penned an argument that is conventional, unimaginative and banal. She continues the long practice of confusing a lack of diversity in mainstream Western / European photojournalism as only about ethnic, nationalist, or gender. That is, about ‘mixing it up’ and creating the right optics of diversity, much like we see in college posters, or television ads with their token ‘people of colour’ thrown in. What is completely left out is politics.

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The Silence Of The Lambs

A big congratulations to the New York Times Lens blog for yet another obfuscatory, confusing, and overtly misleading piece about Libya, ISIS and the chaos that reigns there. Oh, but you will argue, this is not about that, but about the suffering of the families of the Christians who were killed by ISIS. Its an emotional story. A human interest story. Indeed. It is anything but that. It is in fact very much about the fact that the deaths of the these men occurred at the hands of a militancy that only exists because of the near decade long series of idiotic, immoral, criminal and illegitimate military actions we have been gleefully conducting in the region. That is, there is a history, and it is one that we as Americans have written with mendacity, illegality, brutality and simple stupidity. But of course, in the finest traditions of propaganda journalism, all this is simply jettisoned. Details »

The Easy Beauty Of The Unpolitical, The Effective Seduction Of The Obfuscatory

There are a number of ways in which the Israelis, desperate to speak dishonestly and evasive, about their immoral, inhumane, anachronistic and hilariously anti-Enlightenment (the Enlightenment whose false claims to universalism the Israelis love to grab hold of when it suits them), speak and represent their country and its military and illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The latter they prefer to evade with references to complex history, nuance, subtlety, a feigned presumption of complexity and sheer blatant obfuscation. When it comes to their own brutality, land-grab, genocidal erasure of another people’s lives, histories and hopes, they are all about being ‘careful’, ‘measured’ and yes, ‘artistic’. The much celebrated project, THIS PLACE – one that has been celebrated and continues to be talked about, is a classic case of a cultural propaganda effort that has now revealed it true intents, and the ahistorical, obfuscatory and frankly, hypocritical ideology that underpins it. 

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Uncomfortable Realities, Disappointing Complexities And The Comforts Of Suburban Bourgeois Therapy

But geopolitical reality was much messier than he’d assumed. It ignited a bleak cynicism in his worldview…In addition to learning about the difficult prospects for weak, independent states, he also discovered how such countries are populated: It often included ethnic cleansing and forced deportations…While Mr. Mahon is glad to be getting his work recognized, which was his original motivation, his perspective on these issues has shifted significantly. In a world of increased globalization, and the potential marginalization of the idea of the nation-state, he came to believe that the war, poverty and isolation experienced in these countries was not worth the trouble.

Not worth the trouble. And with those four words Mr. Mahon, a photojournalist wearing the respectability of a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grant, dismisses the political, economic, and social histories and struggles of the people that he apparently spent nearly 8 years trying to document and represent.

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Rethinking Africa Or How Not To Talk About Your Africa Photo Project

The American photographer Pete Muller’s is working on a long-term project called Rethinking The Enemy: Men, Masculinity And Violence, that he claims attempts to:

…understand the causes of male-perpetrated violence,”

He explains that he is:

…working around the hypothesis that when men are not able to achieve what are often rigid standards of what makes successful manhood, they become extremely anxious and volatile, and they will revert to dangerous and violent behaviour in order to try to assert themselves as men.

Now, I am worried. 

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Listening Only To Those We Recognise As Us

Lewis Bush of the Disphotic blog asks:

Why is a documentary on a foreign war correspondent, who had the choice to pack up and leave but decided to stay, and died as a consequences, considered more important, compelling or appealing than a documentary about a resident who had no choice but stay and die? Is it some how more tragic, the loss of life more poignant, for that fact that the deaths of Hondros and Hetherington, and so many others, appear so completely unnecessary? Even in our cynical age is there still some latent appeal in that old romantic idea of dying for a cause and what are the implications of this in an atmosphere that seems to be becoming increasingly dangerous for journalists? Profoundly disturbing ones I think.

He steps into a debate that has not-quite-raged within the community of photojournalists because apparently they are all too busy discussing Instagram or the latest Hipstamatic film-type or some other such ‘innovation’. Lewis Bush is speaking about recent announcements about documentary films about Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, two photojournalists who were killed during the recent Libya war. But the fact remains that our consumer / media saturated societies needs people like itself to help it make sense of the world. It needs the ‘white’ interlocutor to not only protect us from the diversity of perspectives and seemingly incomprehensible views of ‘the other’, but to also assure us that all is well in the world because someone like ‘us’ is out there reporting on it, and telling us how to think and respond to it.  Details »