“In these last decades ‘concerned’ photography has done at least as much to deaden conscience as to arouse it”, Sontag, S. On Photography (1979). Sontag argued that beleaguering the public with sensationalist photographs of war and poverty was a definitive way to numb the public’s response. Sontag believed that the more distressing images people viewed, the more immune they became to their impact; viewers became reduced to inaction, either through guilt or a dismissive lethargy towards making a difference.
Sontag reversed this view in Regarding the Pain of Others (2004), but ‘compassion fatigue’ is still used as an argument against war imagery today. I have been thinking about this a lot this week in relation to the vast array of citizen journalism images that have been flooding the news stations with injustices. Do those images call us to action? Will they help to provoke change? Can photography change situations? Interestingly, there’s also been a shift to show an opposing side of photography, but based on the same situation. It’s quieter, it’s more of a visceral approach, showing aesthetically interesting images of scenes of devastation, more like an aftermath. There’s a complexity to this style of photography, in particular Joel Meyerowitz is a notable example here. He was the official photographer selected to photograph the scenes after 9/11. But some say, that the his approach almost reduces the desire to a call of action. It’s a compelling thought that both techniques could manufacture similar feelings in viewers. But if we are able to photograph information including the sheer horror with the aesthetic pull of the image, then surely ‘9/11 Falling Man’ sums up this complete epoch…
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Many congratulations to the following artists for being featured this week:
Tomaso Belloni, Peter Wilkin, Jun Yamaguchi, Gabriele Rodriquez, Fleur Schim, Hanni K, Paul Toussaint, Ade Santora, Susan Detroy, Milly M, Greg McMillan, Vadim Demyanov, Gianluca Ricoveri, p.a. hamel, borisbschulz2009, Catherine Caddigan, Rita Colantonio, Oola Cristina, Susan Latty, @filizakart, @nostalgic_august, @effe5, Jill Lian, @vitolx, @oedeorte, eliza.tsitsimeaua, Patty Larson, Fleur Schim, Adrian McGarry, Deborah Morbeto, Marco Prado, Jane Schultz.
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