Project 4. Re-thinking photojournalism 2: ‘post-photojournalism’
Exercise 3.4 – Look at the work of one of the practitioners discussed in the project. Write a short analysis of one of their projects or the practitioner’s overall approach. Comment on how appropriate you think their creative responses are. What is your impression of the evolving nature of photo journalism?
Looking at new strategies used by photojournalists to maintain viewers’ attention in the light of ‘compassion fatigue’. I’ve written previously (on other Modules) about Jeff Wall and LucDelahaye. Looking at Benjamin Lowy’s work on his website, what struck me the most was that I found it difficult to tell whether the images were produced from an iPhone or a DSLR. Comment is made in the DiAC Handbook (p.77) that perhaps it is the familiarity of the smartphone image ‘that gives it a fighting chance of catching the attention of apathetic audiences’. That seems counter-intuitive somehow because I would imagine that because it was so familiar it would just become one of many to be scanned-over quickly and the the eyes move on.
I’ve looked at the work of Patrick Chauvel and his series Guerre Ici [War Here] (2009) . bringing the conflict home with his digital composites combining images of war zones with views of Paris. I would imagine it did get people to look then but now, given what has happened in Paris in more recent years, such images might seem in bad taste – similarly in London and Manchester. In fact, thinking about it, these recent dreadful incidents could really have brought home the consequences of war and how far their web stretches.
A Magnum photographer, Dworzak was working in Afghanistan when he found some portraits in a photographer’s studio in Kandahar. These were illicit images requested by Taliban sitters (all photography banned except for ID purposes).
Do portraits like this ‘subvert the regime by exposing the contradictory behaviour of its adherents’ (Handbook p.77). In a Vice Interview Dworzak acknowledges that he received a lot of criticism in Europe for being disrespectful – as if he had taken the photographs himself. He bought and published them because he was wanting to point out the inconsistencies. I agree there are and they do intrigue me and make me look because they make me think of more than the inconsistencies. The backdrops they were taken against don’t look like Afghanistan (although maybe I’m stereotyping here) they look like some idyll of a different life. The flowers add femininity beauty somehow, softness. The portraits make me wonder what thoughts and feelings these Taliban fighters have about their lives and the constraints around them and what choices they had. I feel sad even whilst knowing of the Taliban’s brutality.
Compare with two other photographs taken by Thomas Dworzak
What do I think about the evolving nature of photojournalism. Well, it’s like a chameleon, changing according to prevailing circumstances to survive and I think that’s a positive strength. Viewers suffer compassion fatigue and I would imagine that photojournalists do become burnt-out; inured to what they see. I’m not surprised that some of them feel the need to venture into other modes of being to reclaim themselves.