Photos that horrify - the best ones?
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.
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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:
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=txZ...page&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...
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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 ...
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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.