Regarding the Pain of Others
November 20, 2021 7:31 AM   Subscribe

From the BBC this morning, an hour's meditation on the nature, practice and moral questions regarding war photography: Regarding the Pain of Others
In her 2003 essay Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag grappled with this question. War photographs, Sontag believed, confront us with our simultaneous need to look and to turn away. Yet for Sontag, most people could never understand what war is like. ‘We don’t get it’, she wrote.

Allan Little knew Sontag and here takes up the mantle. He has spent decades reporting in conflict zones from Bosnia to Sierra Leone. As a young reporter he believed, in his own words, in ‘the power of witness’. Now he’s not so sure. What purpose do war reports or images serve? Why do they seem to make little or no difference?
See also the first chapter of Susan Sontag's 'Regarding the Pain of Others.' a review thereof.

On a related tip: Pain Empathy and 'I Feel Your Pain’:The Neuroscience of Empathy
posted by y2karl (3 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for this.
Here's a lovely interview between filmmaker Agnès Varda and Sontag.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:09 AM on November 20 [2 favorites]

In the broadcast Susan Sontag talks about the shame and shock of witnessing other people's suffering when we know there is nothing we can do, and others talk about the disillusionment from their growing realization that showing these images does nothing to change the world.

The other day I was really moved by this photograph in NYT of refugees in Byelorussia ( top of the page). I zoomed in to look at everyone's faces because it's hit me lately, that these are real people with real lives - I'm sure that's badly phrased and makes me sound like an idiot but I don't know how else to put it.

It also reminds me of the father of a friend who, at the age of 15, was told to 'spend the day in the woods' to avoid the Nazis who had recently invaded his small town in Slovakia and were looking for Jews, and he never was able to go home again, and he spent the rest of the war fighting with partisans, and after the war, walked to Vienna and finally made it to New York, where he went to Cooper Union, then MIT, and ended up as a big wig in a major tech company. The teenage boy in the front could be my friend's father - or not, sure - I wanted to be a witness and look at their faces. Sontag is right about that shame and shock.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:13 PM on November 20 [1 favorite]

Kevin Carter (13 September 1960 – 27 July 1994).
posted by cenoxo at 3:17 AM on November 21 [1 favorite]

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