Please read my introduction post Photojournaliam, Advocacy And Eurocentrism: An Introduction before continuing reading the post here.
Part 1 of this 5-part series is here: Photojournaliam, Advocacy And Eurocentrism – Part 1: There Is No Other But Us
Part 2 of this 5-part series if here: Photojournaliam, Advocacy And Eurocentrism – Part 2: Angel of Mercy, Have Mercy!
Part 3 of this 5-part series if here: Photojournaliam, Advocacy And Eurocentrism – Part 3: A World Very Small.
Witness To The World
We should admit…that power produces knowledge (and simply by encouraging it because it serves or by applying it because it is useful); that power and knowledge directly imply one another; that there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitution at the same time power relations. These ‘power-knowledge relations are to be analyzed, there, not on the basis of a subject of knowledge who is or is not free in relations to the power system, but, on the contrary, the subject who knows, the objects to be known and the modalities of knowledge must be regarded as so many efforts of these fundamental implications of power-knowledge and their historical transformations. In short, it is not the activity of the subject of knowledge that produces a corpus of knowledge, useful or resistant to power, but power-knowledge, the processes and struggles that traverse it and which it is made up, that determines the forms and possible domains of knowledge.
Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish, Page 28
It is a myth that refuses to die – the photojournalist as individual hero. The myth is renewed repeatedly each year in dozens of books, newspaper and magazine articles, exhibitions, and public statements by members of the photojournalism community including the photojournalists themselves – individual photographers spend consider effort on projecting an image of themselves as the last heroes of our times. We love our heroes and it has always perplexed me why this myth is so essential to the West for it does not exist in the same intensity elsewhere. The idea of the ‘witness to suffering’ clearly has a pedigree in Europe’s civilizing mission and sense of moral responsibility towards the world’s lesser people. So much of what still passes for photojournalist work retains within it the ethics and ethos of the white man’s burden. The photojournalist – the moral voice, the visual outrage, the photographic conscience as embodied in the public rhetoric of the near-saint-like James Nachtwey or Time Hetherington, is quite a sight to behold. And the photographer’s own sense of their righteous mission, and the allure of their swagger is in itself quite interesting. This was captured beautifully in a statement that Emphas.is founder Karim Ben Khelifa made, arguing that photojournalists had a certain allure, and that:
We have a romanticism around our profession. We realized that our work isn’t the end product, but how we got to it. This is what we expect to monetize.
The photojournalist as the individual hero – the myth underpins most all articles and exhibitions that feature photojournalism and war photography. Details »