Week 8: An Agent for Change?

In response to the censoring of images I feel that one of the important factors to consider is the context or point of exhibition. This however raises further questions regarding objectivity and the use of such images as ‘propaganda’. The reason and intentions for using shocking imagery must always be scrutinised and tested in order to understand its context. (Levi Strauss, 2003) argues ‘When one, anyone, tries to represent someone else, to ‘take their picture’ or ‘tell their story’, they run headlong into a minefield of real political problems, The first question is: what right do I have to represent you?’ I agree with Levi Strauss in moralising the right to represent someone else and the problematic nature of this will always be argued. Citizen journalism may offer some tonic to this problem but it is not a universal solution.

In considering the Carter image below I understand this image to be the result of his talent as a photographer in the creative choices he made in making the photograph which may further the impact of the image. Within a teaching context I have shown this image to college students many times and it is often met with silence and sometimes tears when they understand the context.

Going back to the Levi Strauss quote, the impact of this image is furthered because it was taken by an African photographer/photojournalist. I have a basic knowledge of the type of work Carter engaged with as part of ‘The Bang Bang Club’ and it is this knowledge which provides enough objectivity to arrive at the conclusion that I believe his intentions.

Borge offers an explanation which has merit stating “Maybe activist photography begins at the point that a photographer thinks beyond the photograph, or when the photograph is not the end, rather a means to a solution even if the solution is nebulous.” (Borge 2012). This relates to the photograph taken by Carter in addition to his other work by his intentions to document inequality, poverty and the grotesque rituals carried out in South Africa as part of the Apartheid regime. I feel that understanding the nature and context of his work adds clarity to his voice as a photojournalist. And in viewing ’The Vulture and the Little Girl’ in addition to my basic understanding of his work, I understand that Carter was probably a specialist in the realm of creating art and journalism out of real life horror. The artistic prowess probably the result of repeated experiences of a horrific nature, See Carter’s photograph of the result of ‘Necklacing’ below.

Borge, M. (2012) Photography as Activism: Images for Social Change. Focal Press, Oxon.

Levi Strauss, D. (2003) Between the Eyes, Essays on Photography & Politics. Aperture, New York.

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