Not Shooting Scenes of Dispair
So I brought the Nikon, and I brought the C220. A couple of lens and 40 rolls of film. I drove the upper ninth, and I drove the lower ninth. I talked to my sister (who runs a free health clinic in Algiers, bless her soul), and took a few shots there of the tremendous work being done by volunteers. I, just for the life of me, can't get out of the car and shoot the absolute destruction of New Orleans. Perhaps this is why I am not a professional photographer, but even if I don't use these potential images for profit (which I wouldn't), I can't get over the feeling of using and abusing the misfortune of others for any use, including my own documentation of hell on earth.
BTW - When we left the lower ninth, I had a really stiff drink. The cameras alone cannot describe the devastation I witnessed in that once lively city.
BTW - BTW - Gulfport Mississippi made N.O. look like heaven.
Any thoughts? I will be back in N.O. on Monday.
tim in Mobile AL (temp)
Where ever you are, there you be.
Documentry shooting can be difficult at best, and takes a certain type of photographer, if the devestating sights you see are to distrubing, then perhaps it is not your type of shooting, I have known quite a few war corespondants who had very difficult times shooting what they saw when they first started, but were able to overcome their feelings because they felt documenting the events and the aftermath were more important.
Don't feel bad if you can't bring yourself to do it, if I were in the same position, I can't say what I would do, the suffering of fellow human beings is very difficult, one project you might try doing while your there, is document the good things that are going on, the up beat and the future.
I agree with Dave. Personally, I wouldn't do it. I think you should do what you feel comfortable with; if you are not doing this on assignment, and you aren't comfortable with it, you probably shouldn't do it.
I understand the difficulty. I know a guy who was living there until Katrina and when he went back he shot a mess of images. What I have seen of his work is mostly relatively close up and removed from context. I love his images, but I guess I don't feel the suffering when I look at them, perhaps I should, but I don't.
I like Dave's idea of photograping upbeat things, it seems that there needs to be more of that anyway.
Location + camera != photojournalism
Purpose + camera == photojournalism
If you find the purpose, you will shoot. If not, find another way to help!
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Wow, this is indeed a pearl of wisdom! Bravo!
Originally Posted by bjorke
Being a person deeply interested in history, I have seen photos (as most of you have) of things that make hurricane Katrina look like strong breeze: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Oswiecim, Dachau (or any one of those places for that matter), my native Warsaw - the list goes on (and on, and on - please forgive the glaring omissions, this is just an example). I can certainly understand how hard it would be to take the photos - but I am very glad and thankful that someone did. And as thankful as I am, I hope future generations will heed the lessons the images contain. I know that a force of nature (such as a hurricane) is different than the things that human beings do to each other (although there is much of that in the aftermath of the hurricanes, unfortunately!), but like in all monumental events, good or bad, there is something to teach the future generations contained in these situations. I will stop here, as I am at a loss to put it any more perfectly than the above quote!
Many years ago I had a long talk on this subject with Dennis Thorpe, staff photographer with the Guardian UK and IMO one of the finest and most sensitive photojournalists. The conversation was motivated by a photograph of a grieving man carrying the coffin of his child of a few months who had been killed in the troubles in Belfast Northern Ireland. Dennis had made the exposure using a very wide angle lens from just 2 or 3 feet from the grieving man. When I asked him why he made the photograph and what were his feelings as he pressed the shutter he said that he made such exposures because he felt that to do so was his way of helping solve the situation.
Interestingly Dennis processed his own film so that should there be an image that he considered to be in bad taste or wrong to use he did not give the negative to the newspaper picture editor. Dennis taught me much about photographing emotive situations but I think the self editing after the event was the most important discipline that I learned. I tend to isolate myself behind the camera and make the exposures I think important and try not to let emotions influence my photo making when I shoot on the streets. It is only when I have developed the film that I make the judgement as to if I will publish the picture or destoy the negative. I thank Dennis Thorpe for teaching me to be a more careing and sensitive photographer.
Mode One: Turn off all emotions and respond to the action, concentrating only on the mechanics of the photographic process.
Mode Two: Consciously make the decision not to photograph certain subjects and concentrate on making the best of what else is there.
Those were my ways of dealing with the emotional subjects I had to photograph when I worked for a daily newspaper.
There was a change in editorial philosophy over the years where I worked. Originally, editors did not want controversial photographs which was frustrating. Later, other editors wanted photographs that leaned more toward the sensational which was also frustrating. Since I also processed my film and did my prints, I could edit after shooting if I felt I had made something that was exploitative. Mode Two was a handy way to handle certain assignments. I hated shooting funerals, especially when editors expected emotional photographs of family members. I made the conscious decision to f*** up every one of those assignments and eventually they quit giving them to me.
We discussed this subject a while back.
I think art is about revealing the human condition. If you don't have the stomach for it then don't do it.
Some of the best images we have though, are ones that reveal tragedy or despair in peoples lives. Migrant mother, girl running from napalm, civil war stuff, etc.
That being said, I'm sure it can take its toll on the photographer over time.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
i covered the station nightclub fire for one of the local papers here in ri.
i had never done anything as hardcore as that and haven't since.
about once a month i drive down that road ( about 4 miles from where i live ) and see the vacant lot, all the memorials & big sign, and i can still smell the scene that i photographed a few years ago. it still kind of freaks me out.
i can't make any better suggestions than what has already been said. it isn't easy to document a tragic situation or its aftermath --- for yourself, or for others.