Photos that horrify - the best ones?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Wolfeye, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. Wolfeye

    Wolfeye Subscriber

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    It's hard to move me. I'm cynical and jaded on an optimistic day. Yet my heart is ripped by the photos I'm seeing of the oil-soaked birds in the Gulf of Mexico. Made me stop and think - when we had our flood here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I couldn't bring myself to photograph the destroyed homes or even visit the worst hit areas. There were plenty of people who DID take those photos but I just couldn't.

    My hat's off to those with the stomach for news photography. I appreciate it, even when I hate it.
     
  2. Shawn Rahman

    Shawn Rahman Subscriber

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    Wolfeye: I agree with you, although personally I have not had the opportunity to make such a decision.

    Nevertheless,your post made me think of Kevin Carter, the Pulitzer winning photographer who made what I think is the most horrifying, yet incredible picture I can recall. Just taking the picture toook such a significant toll on him, that he ended up committing suicide:

    http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2006/08/the_death_of_ke.html
     
  3. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I'd forgotten the photographer's name, but that Kevin Carter photo is exactly the one I thought of when I saw this thread. (Mind, his suicide wasn't traceable to that one photo, so much as to a lifetime spent steeped in and documenting all sorts of horrors.)

    The other one that gets me similarly is the 1937 _Life_ photo of the lynching of either Roosevelt Townes or "Bootjack" McDaniels: http://books.google.com/books?id=txZ8PZRsk0YC&pg=PA198#v=onepage&q&f=false (the caption says it's McDaniels, but most sources I've found say it could be either of them).

    The photo ran uncredited, and as far as I know it's never been revealed who took it. I've always hoped it was someone with the stomach to face and document horror, but the history of lynching photography suggests that it was more likely either an opportunistic pro (souvenir photos of lynchings were apparently fairly popular, and if that doesn't make you throw up I don't know what will) or just another member of a bloodthirsty mob. Which makes the photo itself seriously problematic; there's a huge dissonance between how a reasonable human being sees it today (I hope) and how the photographer probably saw it, and how is one to engage with that relationship? Disturbing, to say the least.

    Indeed, I'm more than a little nervous about posting this, since appreciation of the photo could be seen as support of the photographer. Moderators, please let me know if I've crossed the line here, and I'll clear out without making a fuss...

    -NT
     
  4. mhcfires

    mhcfires Subscriber

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    This may be uncomfortable but people need to be reminded of our past history, no matter how distasteful it was. To deny this is akin to denying the holocaust.

    m
     
  5. Kvistgaard

    Kvistgaard Member

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    if CCTV pictures count, then this one ranks high on my list of horrible photographs. When seeing this, I can't help contemplate the fate that awaits James Bulger, the little boy on the left. Maybe the reason it is so horrifying is that the scene appears to be so everyday, but in fact is a tragedy for all involved unfolding.

    http://www.techshout.com/images/bulger-cctv-image.jpg
     
  6. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    To me, images involving innocent people horrifies me the most. Images from 9/11, images from Tsunami with bodies all over the place, etc. are the worst. While oil spill and bird photos are tragic and heart breaking, former has the greatest impact to me personally. Let alone taking them, I can't even stand looking at them for very long.
     
  7. mdm

    mdm Member

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    That is photography in its purest form. It is horrible and difficult, but our emotional resonse to such photographs defines who we are, where we stand and has the power to change lives, the world. A photograph is profoundly subversive, in ways that a documentary film, or a film, a painting, music, a book, a newspaper report, can never be. The best photographs communicate precisely and instantly in a universal human language.

    David
     
  8. hspluta

    hspluta Member

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    I was trained as a combat photographer back in '73. The images we were shown, from WWII and Vietnam, as examples of what was expected were gut wrenching to say the least. I am not sure how a person could take some of those shots, but one thing about military training, when it does kick in, it is full autopilot and you just do your job.

    As it turned out I was fortunate enough to get stationed in Germany and Aberdeen Proving Grounds so the extent of my work was portraits of officers and shots for Stars and Stripes. Even so when I got out of the service I put my camera down for quite a few years before I had any desire to make photographs. To be honest, just typing this has not been easy.


    -Harry
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    back in feb 2003 there was a night club that burned to the ground
    the band that played had a pyro show and the club just burst into flames.
    ( kind of like what happened in russia a few months ago ! )
    the band lost one of its members, and 100 people died in the fire.
    pretty much everyone in rhode island knows someone who died in the fire...
    at the time i was working for a newspaper and was sent the next day to cover "the story"
    it wasn't easy ... i drive by rt 3 from time to time, where the nightclub used to be
    and there is a memorial ... and i can still smell the morning i was there ...
     
  10. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    There is a big difference between being a "tragedy tourist" taking pictures of ruined homes in a disaster area, or whatever, and documenting a scene either for the press or official record keeping and investigation. Some would say it's not much different, especially for the press, but that's a different argument, I think.

    I too was a military photographer in the early 70's, and was asked to photograph some horrific events, but none remotely so bad as what has been linked to here. I count my blessings that I wasn't in that job a year or two earlier.

    It's not easy set aside your reactions, but as Harry and John said, you do your job, and react another time.

    I've not seen the film, but An Unlikely Weapon apparently explores these themes and the effect 1 photo had on Eddie Adams.
    http://www.anunlikelyweapon.com/index.html
     
  11. steelneck

    steelneck Member

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    The Cartier Bresson snapshot of the soldier that just got hit by a bullet. That vietnamese girl, burnt by napalm running naked against the photographer. And of course that picture when the vietnamese police officer executes a man, when the bullet just have started to spread his brains out. Horrible, but these are also pictures that made some change through sheer impact. There are also a number of pictures from the nazi concentration camps.

    It is so sad that i have to mention a more positive picture that was just as political and moved people around the world, the chinese man standing in front of the tank at tiananmen square. Talk about curage!
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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  13. eddym

    eddym Member

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    I have lived through two major hurricanes here in Puerto Rico. After the first, Hugo in 1989, I was in shock at all the devastation around me. I could not take any pictures for several months after it hit us. It was as if our entire environment had been destroyed.
    Hurricane Georges hit us in 1989, and the devastation was equal to Hugo in our area, but more widespread throughout the island. This time I felt differently; I used photography as therapy. I actually went out shooting the damage in large format, trying to find any beauty that might remain after nature's rampage. Here is one that inspired me: a tree fern -for me, a sort of symbol of the tropical rain forest in which I live, and which was so devastated- that, in spite of having been ravaged, was already recovering, sending out a new frond.
     

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  14. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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  15. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I remember seeing a series of photos from a garment factory fire in Chicago? in the early 20th century. Young women in mid-air, plunging to their deaths ... that did it for me. I'm not going to try and find the images and relive the experience.

    Hats off to the people who can photograph that - I'll stick to landscapes, thank you.
     
  16. Lorenzo_from_Venice

    Lorenzo_from_Venice Member

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    I agree "in toto" with MattKing.
    I'm not likely to be horrified by death's pictures. They are of dead people. Death surrounds us and if you Believe, there is another (maybe better) life, if you don't it's just ... the end.

    But THOSE pictures, are about a living person, you really can feel the "grotesque" of that poor deformed (in the body and possibly in the mind) creature, being held by the mother. The "horror" imho comes from the ability of Eugene Smith to make you see that creature as her mother see her. While my emotions tells me about the love of a mother for her unfortunate daughter, my rational part still cries for the un-naturality of the scene. It's very destabilizing to me!
     
  17. archer

    archer Member

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    Dear Steelneck;
    The photo of the soldier being struck by the bullet as the picture is being taken was not taken by Bresson but by Robert Capa during the Spanish civil war if I remember correctly, but I too, wonder how any photographer can retain their sanity after recording such slaughter.
    Denise Libby