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"I don't know if I should be photographing that or not"
April 10, 2011 5:39 PM   Subscribe

On filming desperately graphic war footage. Aussie photojournalist was 5 metres away when a 12 year old suicide bomber detonated a bomb.
posted by malibustacey9999 (89 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sorry, I should have warned about graphic images of human remains.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:40 PM on April 10, 2011


Yes, that'd be good to do.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:42 PM on April 10, 2011


Sweet, the war trifecta is complete.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:47 PM on April 10, 2011


And just to clarify, I didn't post this as a "eeew, look what people do to each other" thing. I was struck by the mental conflict Dupont is suffering... he wants to help victims, both dead and alive, but he wants to do his job which precludes him helping victims.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:48 PM on April 10, 2011


As a photographer I understand his conflict completely.
posted by bwg at 5:50 PM on April 10, 2011


I believe that graphic footage is important. Vietnam in ones living room.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:05 PM on April 10, 2011


for some reason I thought of Schanberg and Prans' coverage Neak Luong.

'...It's air support'
posted by clavdivs at 6:06 PM on April 10, 2011


[folks, you don't have to like the post but if your question is "why is this here" you probably should be flagging or going to metatalk]
posted by jessamyn at 6:14 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look, I'm as LOLXtians as they come, but that the debate is being hosted by a Christian group seems neither here nor there. The issues being debated are what's important, and I think worthy of a MeFi discussion:

- how much detail is too much detail when it comes to war reporting? Who makes these decisions, against which criteria, and for whose benefit?

- how should journalists in these sorts of situation conduct themselves? Does the story come first? Can answering the first questions help inform this one?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:15 PM on April 10, 2011


Go ahead, take the pictures. If you need to throw up afterwards and get blind drink, that's ok, we understand. The work is important, but it comes with a price.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:16 PM on April 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


from text in link: “I don’t know whether I should be photographing that or not ... I mean, to take photographs or to stop and throw the dead onto the back of trucks .. I don’t know how useful that is.”

Without watching the video in the link (I refuse to) that actually seems like a remarkably easy question to answer. I can think of tough questions; for example, if the photographer was faced with a choice between taking photos and saving lives. But – between documenting an event and gathering the dead? Seriously, what question is there?

I don't share Sys Rq's apparent distrust of the URL simply because it advertises a Christian group's event; but really, the sum and total of the link here is a horrific video and a very vague description of a planned discussion. Sometimes videos like this are necessary, because they document the truth and allow us to sort it out and (we hope) create some kind of justice out of the terrible tragedy. But that doesn't mean any and every horrific video is of such value; sometimes a horrific video is just a horrific video.

If there were some kind of framing, or some description of the value or import of the video, that would be very different, and we could have a discussion along those lines. For example: does the video show us something new, something we couldn't have known before? Does it reveal some new war crime or injustice that needs to be righted? Does it indicate a problem at its source, showing us just what needs to be stopped? Maybe it does; and many terrible, frightening videos have done these thing before.

As it stands, though, it's just a horrific video advertised as such. And every horrific video (there are many on the internet, unfortunately) could be an occasion for a discussion about terrifying videos in general. While I understand that the intentions are good, I think the inflammatory talk of "death porn" doesn't help matters, nor does watching terrifying things simply because they're terrifying.
posted by koeselitz at 6:20 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah, baby, grind that anti-Christian axe. Perspective is for sheeple.

Dude.

If the video is the meat of the post, why link to the debate ad rather than just the video itself?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:23 PM on April 10, 2011


Without watching the video in the link (I refuse to) ...

the sum and total of the link here is a horrific video and a very vague description of a planned discussion


Seriously, if you aren't willing to watch the video, don't spout off on what you think might be in it. There's some tough images in it, but also some really compelling and troubling commentary, as he agonizes in real time, and later, about how he should be reacting, how he is reacting, how it makes him feel, etc.

(Also, at least in my browser, the video that opens is part two of three; the other two videos are also worth watching and provide a lot of context.)
posted by Forktine at 6:27 PM on April 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


Forktine: “Seriously, if you aren't willing to watch the video, don't spout off on what you think might be in it. There's some tough images in it, but also some really compelling and troubling commentary, as he agonizes in real time, and later, about how he should be reacting, how he is reacting, how it makes him feel, etc.”

So why isn't it just audio? What do the images add? I hope it's clear that I don't think these are idle questions, and I expect there are actual answers; I'm not just assuming that it's all ephemeral or something like that. I just like to have some idea of what I'm going to watch before I subject myself to it; as the person in the video seems to be acutely aware, the things we watch have an affect on us. Maybe I'm just more sensitive than most, but I suspect that there are others like me. The rate of PTSD in the general population is vastly underreported.

Could we get maybe a general description of what's in the video? It'd at least be interesting to know what people are finding compelling, and what might be tough to look at.
posted by koeselitz at 6:35 PM on April 10, 2011


Here is the full video series: one, two, three. It's interesting and thought-provoking reporting, and if you can handle the graphic images I recommend watching it.
posted by Forktine at 6:37 PM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


This guy is a parasite. He leaves his friend/colleague Paul to go take pictures, mostly of himself and his reaction to the horror of the event, and then, as an afterthought, goes to look for his friend. When he finds him in bad shape, he again leaves him to take picture of the horror.

Finally, he finds his friend in bad shape at a hospital, and again takes pictures.

If I ever had a friend like this guy, I would punch him in the face.
posted by 517 at 6:38 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


So why isn't it just audio?

Because it is television, not radio? Because he is a photographer? Because it is a story about the moral issues of collecting those images?

You could certainly minimize the window and just listen, and you'd hear the interviews and descriptions and background noises, and you'd end up getting a lot out of it.

And in not watching it, you have company: the other journalist says he won't watch the videos of the bombing because he doesn't want to see people he had been talking with blown to pieces.
posted by Forktine at 6:46 PM on April 10, 2011


And as a general reference to those who do photojournalism in a place like that, I understand that there is a conflict between capturing the story and being the story. I would say that the point at which you put the camera down and help, is when your colleagues are bleeding.

Seriously, direct pressure, airway clearance, and position changes along with advocacy for evacuation can make the difference between life and death. This guy didn't even try any of those things.
posted by 517 at 6:47 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


517... You might want to consider that the reaction after being involved in a suicide bombing might not make a lot of sense. You have no standing in being critical of this person having never experienced this kind of event yourself.
posted by tomswift at 6:48 PM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


I feel like when people are shock, they tend to do what comes automatically. This is what Dupont does when he is in shock, he takes pictures. Should he have tended to his friend? Probably. But he didn't, and these pictures are the result. That he feels conflicted about everything that happens is obvious, but I can't blame him for not being clearheaded in the face of a near death experience. He wasn't trained to be clearheaded in crises, he was trained to take pictures.
posted by schyler523 at 6:50 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


tomswift, thanks I've been a first responder in some messed up stuff.
posted by 517 at 6:50 PM on April 10, 2011


517: I'm assuming you had some training on how to handle such situations...I give the benefit of the doubt to people who haven't.
posted by schyler523 at 6:54 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


thanks I've been a first responder in some messed up stuff.

So your job is to help people who are hurt.

This guy's job is to take pictures.

Your autopilot and his autopilot are going to be doing different things.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:58 PM on April 10, 2011 [17 favorites]


If his job was in computer repair, wouldn't it have been a little weird for him to go around collecting computers and trying to boot them up after the bomb went off? I would say that it would be.

I think you're all being too generous to this man. Maybe he had a TBI and that explains his behavior, but he didn't just take picture, he took pictures of himself. The video ends with pictures of the guy on the scene of the bombing. In order for him to have those, he had to hand his camera to someone to take pictures of him on the scene. That doesn't seem like autopilot, that seems like a guy taking advantage of a bad situation.
posted by 517 at 7:05 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


This guy is a parasite. He leaves his friend/colleague Paul to go take pictures, mostly of himself and his reaction to the horror of the event, and then, as an afterthought, goes to look for his friend. When he finds him in bad shape, he again leaves him to take picture of the horror.

This is just heartless. Watching the video as the guy wanders around in shock, bleeding from the head, his voice cracking as he questions his own actions and his role in Afghanistan, "parasite" is about the furthest word from my mind
posted by crayz at 7:07 PM on April 10, 2011 [13 favorites]


I can't second guess the guy for making the video. At least he wasn't curled up in a ball and crying like a baby like I probably would have been doing.

Made me think of the story of Kevin Carter. He got some criticism for not intervening after he took this photo of a starving Sudanese child.
posted by marxchivist at 7:09 PM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


From the Christians in the Media release: Is there a point to any of this? Or does it feed a sadistic desire in each of us to watch other humans in their time of greatest despair?

This is such a bad way to present this, I scarcely know how to begin. It doesn't even make sense: "feeding a sadistic desire... to watch other humans in their time of greatest despair" could be *a* point, couldn't it? What if you're feeding their curiosity? Or feeding their store of information about what is going on in Afghanistan?
posted by stinkycheese at 7:10 PM on April 10, 2011


I don't need to see it, but maybe someone needed to make it. The subgroups among the Muslim extremists who glorify bombers and encourage them to do what they do might find less recruits if people knew what this really looks like.

Faith in a heavenly reward might be shaken by an understanding of the hell that is left behind.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:12 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


a twelve year old selling newspapers, my god.
posted by clavdivs at 7:12 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, my only complaint about this post is that it's a 3 part video on youtube and the link given here only has part 2 embedded on it, so now I'm going to watch parts 1 & 3.
posted by BeerFilter at 7:13 PM on April 10, 2011


Note to self: next time I find a video that makes me sit back and go "woah", search youtube for parts 1 and 3.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:16 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, okay.

For anybody who may be wondering, this seems to be an edited news piece with interviews. It's not just raw, unedited, on-the-scene footage (which is really what it sounded like from the descriptions here). It deals with a photojournalist attempting to document the war in Afghanistan. The graphic images are of dead bodies and of people wounded by a suicide bombing.

517: “tomswift, thanks I've been a first responder in some messed up stuff.”

Then you should know how people react in these moments, and the lessons they end up having to learn. I have a friend who's just about to graduate from med school and start his residency; he's said to me that he's a bit worried about the fact that he probably will make mistakes early on, and those mistakes might kill someone. This is how it is for everyone, even trained EMTs, even people who spend their lives dealing with this shit; I've never had to face having witnessed a suicide bombing, but I don't imagine anybody goes into that kind of thing with a complete and perfect expertise in crisis management.

What's more, I understand his perspective, and he's absolutely correct that it's not his job to "help people" in Afghanistan. What we need to keep in mind is the fact that videos like this, direct coverage of these kinds of events, have at times meant life and death not for dozens but for hundreds and even thousands. This coverage is important, as I said, because it's necessary for us to know what's going on; and there's no way in the moment for any photojournalist to instantly judge what will and what won't be an essential story to tell or event to document.

So: I don't blame the guy for making this video, or for being so deep in shock that he left his friend to take pictures. (His friend, you might note, seems to feel all right about it, and talks with him in a friendly way about it at the end.) And I don't blame him for feeling sick and disgusted at having to make that difficult calculation that every photojournalist in a war zone has to make between self-preservation, the desire to help, and the necessity of covering important events. There has to be a balance there, and it's not easy to keep a balance when people are dying around you.

I guess the only thing I might blame the guy for is leaving this stuff on the tape and allowing it to be released. I have a strong suspicion that this sort of thing happens to photojournalists in war zones all the time, and that in almost every case about ten minutes of this kind of equivocation gets deleted from the tape at the end of the day before it goes in to the bureau. But then, maybe that just means this guy is a better man than I am in his willingness to show this to the world.
posted by koeselitz at 7:19 PM on April 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


All three are worth watching.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:20 PM on April 10, 2011


From James Nachtwey: "I have been a witness, and these pictures are

my testimony. The events I have recorded should

not be forgotten and must not be repeated."

Sums this up pretty well for me.
posted by Xurando at 7:20 PM on April 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I thought the video was excellent. I generally feel that documenting reality is a beneficial end in and of itself but there are certainly ethical and moral quandaries aplenty in both the recording and viewing.

People react unpredictably in high-stress situations. It's entirely fair to judge their actions but not, I think, to judge them as people based on those reactions.

On preview: exactly what koeslitz said.
posted by Skorgu at 7:22 PM on April 10, 2011


Dunno if the video will work for non-Oz, but the original Foreign Correspondent story (including transcript) can be found here.
posted by Pinback at 7:37 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Video works fine from US.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:39 PM on April 10, 2011


"Then you should know how people react in these moments..."

You're right, I do. I probably have a larger dataset for how people behave after they have been put under a profound stress this than anyone else in this thread. I can tell you from my experience, this guy acted abnormally.

Most people are screaming for help, screaming for you to help someone else, just screaming, or doing nothing at all. Some are acting on autopilot, but it is in response to those around them. They are just blinding asking for help, not considering what is occurring.

They are not systematically documenting the event, talking about how they feel, and making sure to get a good face shot. They are trying to get themselves and their loved ones away from the situation. If this guy was acting how I would expect him to be, it would involve him screaming for Paul's evacuation. The idea of perseverating, which is the most classic idea of acting on autopilot occurs in a TBI, but this guy was not perseverating.

I don't mean to be hard on this guy, I hope he never reads my comments, as they are not something I would ever say to him. But I would not want this guy anywhere near me in a bad situation.

"This is how it is for everyone, even trained EMTs..."

This is something you're talking about from first hand knowledge, or assuming based up a comment from a friend who had yet to deal with it him or herself?
posted by 517 at 7:41 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


517, he specifically addressed those questions, and I think you're being terrifically unfair to him. He was surrounded by Afghanistanis who were tended to the wounded and dead, and did not feel he was in a position to provide any additional help. His job in Afganistan is to do exactly what he did. Far from being a parasite, he puts himself in harm's way, with almost no protection, in order to make sure that what is happening to these people is documented and shared with the rest of the world. It's a terrifically difficult and dangerous job -- try looking up the statistics of journalists who are killed every year. It only seems heartless because you are looking at it as a first reponder. I look at it as a journalist, and I have nothing but respect for him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:50 PM on April 10, 2011 [10 favorites]


517: “This is something you're talking about from first hand knowledge, or assuming based up a comment from a friend who had yet to deal with it him or herself?”

Assuming from med school teachers who have told him this, doctors all. They lied?

If you've never been in a situation where you had some responsibility over another person's life, I guess you might not be familiar with the difficult fact that often it's hard to tell where that responsibility begins and ends. There are people that spend their entire lives worrying about that distinction.

517: “I probably have a larger dataset for how people behave after they have been put under a profound stress this than anyone else in this thread. I can tell you from my experience, this guy acted abnormally.”

If you're going to make a whole lot of arguments from authority, it's customary to commence at this point with actually telling us what it is you do that's given you this experience, so that you can move on to bragging about it. Maybe start by telling us when your last tour in Afghanistan was? Maybe the last time you dealt with a suicide bombing?

“Most people are screaming for help, screaming for you to help someone else, just screaming, or doing nothing at all. Some are acting on autopilot, but it is in response to those around them. They are just blinding asking for help, not considering what is occurring. They are not systematically documenting the event, talking about how they feel, and making sure to get a good face shot. They are trying to get themselves and their loved ones away from the situation. If this guy was acting how I would expect him to be, it would involve him screaming for Paul's evacuation. The idea of perseverating, which is the most classic idea of acting on autopilot occurs in a TBI, but this guy was not perseverating. I don't mean to be hard on this guy, I hope he never reads my comments, as they are not something I would ever say to him. But I would not want this guy anywhere near me in a bad situation.”

Whatever. Photojournalism is an important job; you keep glossing over that, but I'll keep saying it. And the fact is that photos of an important event have saved lives on occasion – and often many lives, as in more than the number of people present on the ground in this scenario.

Every war zone photojournalist goes into dangerous situations where people need help – and commences to take photographs. By your argument, callousness is a charge that can be levied against all of them. But in my estimation, they do a tremendously important job; photographs, video, this stuff isn't just a self-serving, narcissistic thing. There are ways in which that video is just as important as the life-saving work that medics and doctors give. So it might be worth giving it some respect, even if this fellow opens himself up and makes himself vulnerable by sharing the difficult conundrum he found himself in.
posted by koeselitz at 7:53 PM on April 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


"...he puts himself in harm's way, with almost no protection, in order to make sure that what is happening to these people is documented and shared with the rest of the world for fame and riches."
posted by 517 at 7:55 PM on April 10, 2011


Yeah. Fame and riches. He's living the gloriously wealthy and popular life of a journalist.
Come on.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:56 PM on April 10, 2011 [19 favorites]


Oh for flurk's sake, 517, you don't know this person. You have no idea what he is motivated by. Your argument has basically devolved to poo-flinging at this point. Give it a rest.
posted by parrot_person at 7:57 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a lot easier to get fame and riches snapping shots of celebrities.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:00 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Look, I've got to move on for the evening, so I guess it comes down to this.

I hate journalists. They are the ones shoving the camera in the victim's face, asking you where the blood is, and generally walking around like the suffering of others is the business of everyone. They may not be heartless, but they behave as if they are. Yes, they perform a vital function, but I have seen or met few who do it out of some sense of altruism, and many who do it for the "money", excitement, or some weird personality trait of noseyness.

You guys are lauding someone who left their friend bleeding to go take picture, and it sickens me.

"Assuming from med school teachers who have told him this, doctors all." I misunderstood this comment so, everybody is stressed they are going to make mistakes, I would be skeptical of someone who wasn't, but how that related to this video, I don't understand.
posted by 517 at 8:04 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


MeTa.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:05 PM on April 10, 2011


517, you might want to back away from this thread... your last remark was over the line...
posted by tomswift at 8:05 PM on April 10, 2011


517: I think you're all being too generous to this man.

Sorry, dude, and I really wish this did not come across as ad hominem or equally heartless or whatever but you are setting off some serious proto-sociopath warnings from where I sit. As in: a fundamental lack of the ability to empathize.

Thanks for your work in trying to save lives (based on your previous comments) and I am honestly not trying to attack you personally but, what the fuck man.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:07 PM on April 10, 2011


the suffering of others is the business of everyone.

It is.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:07 PM on April 10, 2011


Metafilter: I am honestly not trying to attack you personally but, what the fuck man.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:10 PM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


HOLY SHIT - I just got to the part where he mentions that Paul is Paul Raffaele...I know the guy; a friend used to date his daughter. Feeling sick & not sure if I can watch the rest.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:15 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ubu - there is a conversation with Paul near the end. It's pretty clear he's going to be okay. He's the one, however, who says he won't watch the footage himself, as it might have people he knows, faces he talked to. Very poignant, actually.
posted by koeselitz at 8:18 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have to admit that I'm partially sympathetic to 517's view of how victims generally behave in unexpected situations like this. Mr. Dupont is, however, a photojournalist, there for a particular purpose that's quite different from everybody else's. His job is to document and communicate -- and certainly if he can have a juicy story to tell with pictures to go along with it, it will further his career. I'm not sure I envy him that internal struggle.

517, I'm not sure if you've had to deal with the media a lot as a first responder. It seems that it's likely they could seem like pests out to sensationalize. But this man's a visitor in a foreign land, and the struggles of the people around him are not his own. I suspect that the confusion you see from him here is authentic, and the behavior you see as self-serving and unconventional is probably exactly the sort of level-headed response to chaotic situations that he's prepared himself for.

It's certainly worth questioning photography and journalism like this, but I think most of us have concluded that the profession is badly needed, so we forgive the individuals who are willing to take the job.
posted by phenylphenol at 8:24 PM on April 10, 2011


Phew. Crazy bastard has more lives than a legion of cats.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:24 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm suggesting there's a big difference between media on the scene in the nightly tragedy at home, and a team of journalists in Afghanistan. But what do I know?
posted by phenylphenol at 8:26 PM on April 10, 2011


If Paul himself is not ticked that he went off and 'took pictures" I think the rest of us can safely give him a pass as well.


(PLEASE everyone watch the third video, 'k?)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:37 PM on April 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fame and riches. Would you care to back that up? What's his salary? Had you heard of him before this video? Who is the most famous photojournalist you can name?

And what other profession do you feel unresarched contempt for when the people in them do their job?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:39 PM on April 10, 2011


to divert a bit from this delightful line of argument, I wanted to point to the contrast between the photojournalist's reaction (dazed, on autopilot, uncertain, ethically conflicted, not entirely lucid) and the Afghan soldiers and civilians around him (hyper-alert, darting around quickly, yelling at each other, putting bodies in a truck with little fanfare, etc). From the sounds of it, Paul Raffaele is also dazed and aphonic.

I'm not particularly interested in saying who is reacting better and who should've reacted how, but I think these differences tell us something about how people adapt to life in a war zone.
posted by LMGM at 8:46 PM on April 10, 2011


I wonder of some of his reaction might be due to his having been within feet of the explosion, and having been injured by it, while the Afghanistanis on the scene might not have been close to the explosion like that. It sounds as though he wasn't badly hurt by the explosion, but that sort of thing can really shake someone when they're that close to it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:49 PM on April 10, 2011


If Paul himself is not ticked that he went off and 'took pictures" I think the rest of us can safely give him a pass as well.

He's had a lot of scrapes with death, and has been a globetrotting photojournalist for ages - one of his longest running gigs was with Readers Digest, where he'd be the guy sent wherever to cover whatever, anywhere in the world.

I wouldn't presume to speak for him, but I believe he'd think that covering the story is the number one priority.

(apparently, he quit a very highly paid advertising exec position in Japan to become a photojournalist, so it could be that courting danger might be part of the appeal? ie not just a job but a vocation)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:55 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


517: "Look, I've got to move on for the evening, so I guess it comes down to this.

The "I'm going to say what I really feel and then never have to account for what I say because, you know, I had to take off" gambit is best used if what you "really feel" is completely indefensible.

I hate journalists.

Okay, then, good start....

Yes, they perform a vital function, but I have seen or met few who do it out of some sense of altruism, and many who do it for the "money", excitement, or some weird personality trait of noseyness.

Which you know because...? You've surveyed a broad number of photojournalists and asked them why they do it? I have trouble believe that there are just swarms of photojournalists who go into war zones because they're "nosy" or looking to get rich. And why do you have money in scare-quotes? Or do you mean that you know there isn't any actual money in it except in very, very, very rare cases, in which case you're making an argument against yourself, so...?

You guys are lauding someone who left their friend bleeding to go take picture, and it sickens me."

Since all you've got to say for yourself is that you hate all journalists, and that people here are "sickening" you because they're, what, not expressing enough hate for this particular journalist for you, then yeah, maybe it's best you took the chickenshit way out of the discussion. Nobody's keeping you here.
posted by tzikeh at 8:58 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: "Who is the most famous photojournalist you can name?"

James Nachtwey.

He had a post done on the blue six years ago. I've been working on creating an update that will highlight his more recent work.
posted by zarq at 9:01 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is one basic dilemma of Ronan Bennett's The Catastrophist, albeit with the central character a writer, who in turn has his protagonist quote Ruskin, "Does a man die at your feet — your business is not to help him, but to note the colour of his lips; does a woman embrace her destruction before you, your business is not to save her, but to watch she bends her arms." Bennett's book is a long exploration of the ambiguities of moral neutrality in the artist/observer and ultimately a rejection of it, one I think I share.
posted by Abiezer at 9:11 PM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Made me think of the story of Kevin Carter. He got some criticism for not intervening after he took this photo of a starving Sudanese child.

And then he killed himself.
posted by jokeefe at 9:22 PM on April 10, 2011


If you are suggesting it was because of the photo, that would be inaccurate.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:31 PM on April 10, 2011


Made me think of the story of Kevin Carter. He got some criticism for not intervening after he took this photo of a starving Sudanese child.

He was explicitly instructed by relief workers not to touch or assist in any way. He agonized over the photo. It won him a Pulitzer. Ah, the fortunes that followed. Here's his suicide note:

I am depressed ... without phone ... money for rent ... money for child support ... money for debts ... money!!! ... I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners...I have gone to join Ken [recently deceased colleague Ken Oosterbroek] if I am that lucky.


It's not an easy job. I couldn't do it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:45 PM on April 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you are suggesting it was because of the photo, that would be inaccurate.

The link you included has Carter's text in it, which I have included. I am not sure why you say it is inaccurate. He explicitly references "starving or wounded children."
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:46 PM on April 10, 2011


posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:31 AM.

The implication I was getting from what jokeefe said was that the pain of not intervening instead of taking the photo caused the suicide, not the general witnessing of suffering.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:55 PM on April 10, 2011


I don't know that we can know what caused his suicide. But it does highlight what a hard job photojournalism can be.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:59 PM on April 10, 2011


"Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats." -George Orwell in Some Notes on Salvador Dali

I think Stephen Dupont deserves a lot of credit for showing this footage in the honest light that it must be in, he certainly could have just deleted it all out of shame and no one would have blamed him. Hell, you can see the dude with a machine gun following him around to babysit him, he wasn't just an observer refusing to assist dying people, he was actively in the way and a liability whose total lack of situational awareness required folks to take care of him instead of dying people. This is after he abandoned his bleeding partner who was clearly not A&Ox4 alone in a warzone to go play pornographer and ramble on narcissistically about himself.

One thing that many might be being missing in the pile-on of 517 is awareness of the seemingly universal hatred that first responders have had for journalism as they interact with it. It makes sense, they see journalists at their most callous, intrusive, exploitative, and recklessly deadly. I know the motherfuckers that bigger operations send to protests aren't timid about other peoples blood or consent, and don't give a damn about obstructing the care of whomever is doing the bleeding.

Not everything needs to be seen. I certainly didn't need to see this more than Paul Raffaele needed a partner, or more than the people bleeding on the ground needed a friendly face and someone to apply pressure, or more than that convoy with so many dead and wounded people needed to get the hell out of dodge that much sooner. While I admire his honesty, I hope he never finds work in places like this again.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:19 PM on April 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


How can we be expected to feel empathy for people WITHOUT mediation of their experiences, such as is produced by journalists? I'm not equipped to guess what's going on everywhere in the world. And though we are such visually-oriented critters, traumatic affect is not only produced in visuals.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:10 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


‘Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness. ’
— W. Eugene Smith

W. Eugene Smith learned the hard way that photography could be too easy, a matter of making expert images of interesting subjects. He set himself to learn the truth - about himself as well as his subjects. In the process, he produced a series of photographic essays, for LIFE and other publications, whose passionate involvement set a standard for what photography can be. Gene Smith was a loner, a driving and driven man, who bucked the system of which he was a part. Some say he sacrificed his career, and himself, on an altar of self-destructive idealism. When he died at the age of 59 in 1978, he had $18 in the bank. But his name had become synonymous with integrity. His work was his memorial.

In 2007 he (Stephen Dupont) was awarded the W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography for his on going project on Afghanistan.
posted by a non e mouse at 12:20 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know that we can know what caused his suicide. But it does highlight what a hard job photojournalism can be.

Not really: I quote:

"I am depressed ... without phone ... money for rent ... money for child support ... money for debts ... money!!!"

It sounds to me like the core of his depression is his financial situation, not the trauma that he witnessed. He follows these complaints about his finances with a discussion of the things he's exposed to, but that makes it sound like he's saying 'Because I witnessed this stuff, I should never be financially embarrassed again.'

If the job is that unpleasant/traumatic/financially unrewarding, then quit -- find something else. Go flip burgers like the rest of us.

Stephen Dupont was born in Sydney, Australia in 1967. Since beginning his photographic career in 1989, he has produced photo essays from dozens of countries, including some of the world’s most dangerous regions: Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, India, Israel, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, and Zaire.

But they do keep on going back.

How can we be expected to feel empathy for people WITHOUT mediation of their experiences, such as is produced by journalists?

Um, listening to their own accounts, perhaps?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:25 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is not too far from the birth of two nations, geographically and emotionally. ANZAC.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:29 AM on April 11, 2011


I was disappointed in the videos. I watched all three. I expected to see a lot more of what it was like for the Afghanis who are actually living thru all this. Instead the videos seemed to be mostly focused on Dupont and Rafael and their experiences and perceptions. I would have rather heard more directly from the Afghans themselves. I expected something more profound than "War is hell".
posted by marsha56 at 12:43 AM on April 11, 2011


I can't help but think of House of Leaves, a book about a man who goes crazy after taking the famous photograph of Kim Phuc, the girl burnt by napalm in Vietnam.

I don't know - that's fiction, but sometimes I think people confuse their narrative and their reality.
posted by OrangeDrink at 1:26 AM on April 11, 2011


I'm wrong - House of Leaves was based on Kevin Carter, not Nick Ut.
posted by OrangeDrink at 1:32 AM on April 11, 2011


Stephen Dupont, 2008, Foreign Correspondent transcript
... we were just shooting the breeze and then you know bang! You know massive, massive explosion. You know, it was just this, from what I remember, just a really loud bang and then darkness and silence for a little while. I just remember this calmness after the bang and the blackness and then I heard gunfire. It was the gunfire that made me come to my senses. ...

So I started taking pictures of the guys that were all around me and they were taking cover so in the pictures you will see the guys actually kind of hunkered down and trying to avoid the gunfire. My reaction was to go in and take pictures and then I hesitated thinking well what if there’s a second explosion as I know that… that happens you know? They wait for the rescue party to come in and get the wounded and the bodies and they explode another bomb and so I was really kind of you know tormented about this sort of feeling of another explosion.
posted by Kerasia at 1:43 AM on April 11, 2011


How can we be expected to feel empathy for people WITHOUT mediation of their experiences, such as is produced by journalists?

Um, listening to their own accounts, perhaps?


It's unlikely the Sudanese child had the means to give an account of her situation to the rest of the world without a journalist's involvement.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 2:28 AM on April 11, 2011


"It's unlikely the Sudanese child had the means to give an account of her situation to the rest of the world without a journalist's involvement."

This does not make an excellent example, as its unlikely that the journalist's involvement gave an account of her situation to the rest of the world.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:29 AM on April 11, 2011


I'm sure this won't be appropriate to say, but I find this coverage VITAL to putting the balance to all the macho gloryhound Army of One shit my kids are exposed to in the usa. Between that and Call of Doodie I can't seem to keep him away from unless I don't let him out of the house, when my sensitive young son starts talking about joining up to go and kill the "terrorists", I talk to him about cultural differences. I do. He has some rudimentary empathy, and I strain to keep that alive and growing. I do. But the tide is strong and his friends don't seem to get the balancing talks from their busy struggling parents. I am as guilty as anyone of plopping him in front of the tube so I can get some things done around the house. Mostly it's spongebob, but, like me, he likes Predator, the Aliens movies, crap like that. But when I can, I feel the need to show him just how dirty and unfair real violent conflict is. That there's infinitely more suffering than glory. And when people die, it's beyond ugly, it's truly horrific. I tell him those shattered bodies aren't terrorists, they are fathers, mothers, people with friends and family who loved and needed those people. I can't give him that view from the six o'clock crapfest, with it's 15 second body count between the weather and the fluff piece about the poor rescued homeless doggie. It was a few years ago, not too many, when he first mentioned joining the military in a positive way and we had a little talk, but he was a bit young for geopolitics. Showing the flag draped coffins didn't register too much, but showing some of the returning soldiers who were mangled and burned, getting him to think about what the rest of their lives was probably going to be like, showing what happens after the bomb camera goes dark after that lovely dance of technological superiority, then it starts to open his eyes. Then we have something to talk about. War porn? Maybe for some, but more like a life saving educational documentary to me. My son is getting older now, but he doesn't look at the news the same way anymore, and he isn't as complacent about those games any more. We talk and I can see the influence of this kind of journalism, and I am grateful. You are welcome to think me a horrible person for showing this to a kid, but we both think the true horror is that kids have to live this rather than see it in the screen. A viewpoint many of his friends will never have. The fact is, so many will never see war as true evil because they will never have to look it in the face, so they won't ever have to feel bad about their elected leaders inflicting it on others. This should be shown in schools as much if not more so than sex ed. For the same reasons. Lives are at stake
posted by Redhush at 6:41 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Y'all need to go read this book.
posted by spicynuts at 6:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


thanks I've been a first responder in some messed up stuff - but that doesn't mean you understand the editing process.
posted by the noob at 6:59 AM on April 11, 2011


How can we be expected to feel empathy for people WITHOUT mediation of their experiences, such as is produced by journalists?

Um, listening to their own accounts, perhaps?


This is all a lot trickier than it sounds--I'm actually part of a media project whose goal is to enable people to produce their own accounts, and even when it's not about guns and bombs and violent death, it's tricky. Very often, people ask us to just show up and produce coverage ourselves because they don't have the time or know-how to do it. Also, a straight "documentary" is less misleading than something heavily edited, but it is not by any means the unvarnished truth.

What is needed for people to produce their own narratives:

1. Material support - cameras (even flip cams) aren't free, editing isn't free, it takes some knowledge to be able to use these things, upload, etc.

2. Time.

3. Planning - when people produce their own stuff, they often produce a lot of unusuable b-roll even with a lot of planning. You have to figure out what you want to say, who to film or record or interview, and what to edit out. This is hard!

4. Representation - like, who speaks for your family/group/faction? The person who speaks english? The person with the most education? The prettiest person (and this does make a difference)? What if you need someone to speak and they don't want to, ie, you need to show that this strike is led by undocumented migrants rather than college students, but the migrants don't want to be on camera? What if speaking opens you up to retribution?

There is a perception because of the existence of literate/photo-literate educated bloggers than anyone anywhere in the world can just pop up a useful cell phone video or journal entry and then the situation will be made plain. This is not what happens. The people marginalized by internet reporting are the same people who are always marginalized--the least educated, poorest, most despised, most in need. Believe me, I've done workshops for folks who are learning to do community media, and it is NOT instant or natural or easy for them, and those are the people who have the time, personality and skills to take a workshop.

Journalism is this hugely flawed thing (again, I say this as someone who's done a bit.) There are a whole bunch of flaws that are characteristic of journalists, from a certain cold-heartedness to being excitement-addicts to social anxiety. Those flaws are real and they're annoying; they're also what make journalists able to work. The idea that you can go around and be compassionate and emotionally present and balanced and also do the day-in, day-out grind of boring and/or dangerous stories--well, that just doesn't happen.

And the problem of reception? Look, I usually don't watch extremely gory or intrusive footage because I think it appeals most strongly to what is worst in me--voyeurism, the desire for shock and novelty, etc. And yet, if we have the capacity to document this stuff and we don't, you know it will get denied or minimized--what case would we have against police brutality or government torture without documentation?
posted by Frowner at 9:04 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


This guy is a parasite. He leaves his friend/colleague Paul to go take pictures, mostly of himself and his reaction to the horror of the event, and then, as an afterthought, goes to look for his friend. When he finds him in bad shape, he again leaves him to take picture of the horror.

This guy just took an explosion from 5 metres. I hope you aren't anywhere near someone who will judge you so harshly if you ever take an explosion from 5 metres.
posted by Decani at 1:46 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this kind of footage should be on television non-stop. Vietnam was proof of how important these images are to people NOT wanting war, to understanding that people in other, far-away countries are just like them - humans who hurt and who have their lives destroyed by war. America in particular has a deficit of empathy.
posted by agregoli at 4:40 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


agregoli, I can't favor that hard enough.
posted by lordrunningclam at 10:28 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


How dare he videotape this event we would be unaware of if it hadn't been videotaped
posted by tehloki at 1:00 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know this thread is a bit old, but word just came across that war photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed today in Libya. Here is Hethrington's final tweet.

These photographers are not scavengers. They risk their lives to report on events that would otherwise go unreported. And sometimes they lose their lives.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:00 AM on April 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


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