Photographs and Events

        The War Photographer reading that was done for Thursday really put the previous Sontag reading into perspective for me. Especially when Sontag mentions the quote, “The photographs are a means of making ‘real’ (or ‘more real’) matters that the privileged and the merely safe might prefer to ignore” (Sontag 7). I believe that the same applies to the Guardian reading we did for this week. So many of the stories detail the horrific encounters that so many journalists had that often in them getting assaulted or heavily injured. Throughout each story, I asked myself why someone would go through so much for a picture of something. However, after seeing the pictures it is very clear just how vital the common phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” stands in scenes of violence. While I am able to read and empathize with the casualties and tragedies of war depicted, the stories that have a picture tied directly to the story and what is happening in the scene stand out the most and are almost haunting for just the viewer. A text story does not seem to ever have the same effect that the accompanying picture creates. It makes me curious why photos have such a strong impact on people compared to just text. Many of the readings for this course have had illuminated manuscripts or accompanying pictures that seem to have left more of an impact on people, or at least anecdotally for me. I am incredibly curious as to why and how a photo creates more vivid imagery that allows for not only easier ways of understanding the text but also empathizing and contextualizing with scripts that were written hundreds of years ago. The same stands true for a piece written in the 15th century with an illuminated manuscript as does this Guardian article from the 21st century with accompanying photographs. 

       One question that I do hold is that while I would argue that pictures that accompany text allow for a greater understanding and awareness of the violent imagery, does the type of picture matter? For example, if the camera had been around in the Medieval time period, would we view reenacted photographic scenes of the Bible or St. Margaret reading with the same emotion that we view current pieces of media of news events? Or in a different sense, would we empathize with these journalists’ images if their images were medieval-style paintings rather than the hyperrealism that the camera offers? I suppose I am asking if certain types of images are worth more words than the other, to go back to the analogy mentioned above, depending on the realism that the image depicts. Or, does the factual nature of the story matter as well for example comparing a fictional war like that depicted in Psychomachia or the very real events that occurred in the events portrayed in the War Photographers reading?

~Group Five (Cassidy and Donna)

One thought on “Photographs and Events

  1. Your discussion of realism reminds me of the Feldman reading. On realism, Feldman writes, “Realism depends on the assumption that the world is story-shaped – that there is a well formed narrative implicit in reality itself” (6). He finds the state utilizes the realist aesthetics in its portrayal of violence. I think it is interesting to consider how realism in war photography can also be used to obscure truth through fitting violence in a distinct “story-shaped” narrative.

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