Tag Archive: pakistan
“I wrote in my previous post about how photography can be said to explain everything and yet reveal nothing. And now I find myself realising that I may have taken some photographs that illustrate precisely that characteristic. I can hardly believe the reaction that these pictures have generated.” -Russell Watkins, The spider trees of Pakistan: a tale of two photographs and the web
Russell Watkins, the photographer behind the photos of spiderweb-covered trees in the aftermath of devastating flooding in Pakistan, has an interesting take on what it means for his photos to have gone viral in the past week or so. The photos have been published far and wide (including National Geographic, Wired, Reuters, CNN, BBC, Huffington Post, the Guardian, New Scientist, NBC, the Sun, the Daily Mail, and many more magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs), and have been seen by orders of magnitude more people than have seen his broader coverage of flood relief efforts and the reconstruction of communities in the region following the natural disaster. His work is in the curious position of having been seen by millions of people without informing them. The video produced by his office, the UK’s Department for International Development, has only 259 views on youtube. It’s embedded below:
Watkins attributes the popularity of the images, in part, to their being released on flickr under a creative commons license (and expresses some reservations about the financial implications of such a move). I’m not sure CC licensing had anything to do with it–AP and Reuters photos have gone viral with full copyright. Rather, I think it’s another statement in the ongoing conversation about what type of photos sate the public’s appetite and what that means for the future of visual reporting.
On the opposite side of the coin is the reaction to Jake Price‘s images from the tsunami and unfolding nuclear disaster in northern Japan. BBC’s Viewfinder blog published a collection of his work recently. They’re a stylized black and white treatment of the disaster (interestingly, a few were published in color by BagNewsNotes), and judging by many of the comments on the BBC blog, they haven’t been well received. “Feel guilty just appreciating the artistic beauty of the photos due to the darkness in them,” writes commenter Sanji-san. “I’m sorry but I don’t think B&W photos should be taken of this catastrophe – whilst it may emphasise the tragedy of the situation I personally think we should avoid the ‘artistic’ view of this nightmare unfolding before us,” says Seanlookalike.
In the Japan photos case, many in the public seem not to want an overly artistic or aesthetically-minded approach to photojournalism. In the spiderweb trees case, it’s the aesthetic and abstract approach that has drawn millions of viewers to see image from an ongoing humanitarian crisis. In the former, the public learns about the situation but finds the method unpalatable. In the latter, the photos satisfy visual demand without informing.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t….
The GlobalPost, a leading purveyor of internet-focused international journalism, has just published the multimedia package “Life, death, and the Taliban.” Featuring the photography of dvafoto favorite Seamus Murphy, the pieces mixes written reporting, video, and still photojournalism in a remarkably comprehensive analysis of the contemporary Taliban. There’s almost too much here to take in, but it’s all worthwhile. While you’re at it, check out Murphy’s “A Darkness Visible,” a website devoted to some of his early coverage of the Taliban.
(via Fresh Air interview with GlobalPost executive editor Charles Sennott)
“A picture on May 5 with the continuation of a front-page article about the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and the strategic advantages it offers to Taliban insurgents fighting American troops, showed a silhouetted Taliban logistics tactician, who was interviewed for the article, holding a rifle, creating the impression that the weapon belonged to him. The Times subsequently learned from the photographer that the rifle belonged to the owner of a home in Pakistan where the interview took place, and that the Taliban tactician had held the weapon only for the purpose of the photograph.
“Had The Times known this information at the time of publication, it would not have used the photograph to illustrate the article.” -New York Times editors’ note
The photo was removed from the Times website, but since the initial report of the ethical breach, the photographer’s identity was ferreted out, as was the photo in question. PDNPulse’s report included this line to readers, “Do you think this is over the line?” and others online have argued that this isn’t a big issue. This is wrong.
Unlike the other recent photo manipulation charge to hit photoblogs, Danish photographer Klavs Bo Christensen‘s overzealous color correction that led to disqualification in a photo contest, Canepari’s transgression purports to show visual facts that are not true. The photo misleads viewers of the photo into thinking that this particular military strategy on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border involves more armament than it actually does. There’s a temptation to discount the complaints about the photo because the photo doesn’t look manipulated and because the facts aren’t far off from what the photo shows. That is, guns are likely involved in this particular operation, as they are in most military operations, so who cares whether or not this particular person actually carries a weapon or not?
Photo manipulation is most harmful to a reporter/photographer/publication’s credibility precisely when it is most subtle. We can all laugh at the more blatant photoshop disasters, but no one mistakes the obvious manipulations of images as representations of fact. The Danish photographer’s pictures may push the bounds of acceptable journalistic post production practices, but the cartoonish colors in the image obviously stem from artistic impulses rather than an intent to mislead and misinform. One can reasonbly expect a layman to realize that the colors have been consistently pumped up a bit just because one rarely encounters such vivid colorization in reality.
But, when a picture looks like the truth (i.e., when what looks like a documentary image is, in fact posed, or when a basketball is cloned into a picture of a high school match), viewers believe that it is the truth. Guys with guns are the norm in pictures from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. A layman could not reasonably discern the manipulation in Canepari’s picture as a falsehood or artistic interpretation in a portrait situation. The image, which was presented by the photographer as a documentary account of the Taliban logistics tactician as he normally operates, is a deception. If an image that looks very real is fake, what guarantees that any images in a newspaper show the facts as they are?
The New York Times acted correctly in retracting the photo.
Perusing Lens, the NYT’s new photojournalism portal and an example of photo webdesign done well, the above photo by Lynsey Addario jumped out at me in the short slideshow “On Assignment: Taking Time Out to Heal.” The shot looks like what the situation would’ve looked like 5 minutes after Larry Burrows iconic 1966 picture from a Hill 484 south of the DMZ in Vietnam:
Addario is currently recuperating after a car crash in Pakistan that also injured Teru Kuwayama and took the life of fixer Raza Khan. Our thoughts go out to Raza’s family, and we hope for a speedy recovery for Addario and Kuwayama.
One thing I think we’re going to try to do here is underline important news from around the world with solid photojournalism .. because, lets be honest, it doesn’t often enough get paired up on its own.
The piece itself by Mr. Filkins is a tremendous piece of timely, long-form journalism. He is a committed journalist who has dedicated himself to the story and is very much the expert on his region (don’t just take my word for it, the amazing Foreign Policy Magazine Blog calls it a “must-read” essay. The estimable and hard-to-impress Registan.net echoes the same words and adds “it is worth putting all else aside to read it.”)
As the New York Times Magazine is oft to do, it has paired some great photography from the ground by Lynsey Addario. Unfortunately there were only four pictures with the story, and I’m sure there are many more in a nice edit somewhere else. For now, here is another of my favorites from her work:
What first got me thinking about this post was the fact that just a day or two after I read this article in the Magazine I saw the news breaking from the front of the New York Times: “Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in Pakistan”. The Magazine’s piece had foreshadowed the fact that the US had been running secret missions inside Pakistan’s borders, near Afghanistan, against some of the very same factions interviewed by Filkins. Fascinating to see these kind of things come together.
There is plenty more interesting and important work that has come out of Pakistan recently, foreshadowing all of the recent news, that has for me at least put new attention on this country and its politics. In other words, I had seen these photographs and read some stories but because of this breaking news this week, and its definite connection to the rising challenges in Afghanistan (which are hitting very close to home, more on this later), I’m paying a whole new kind of attention. It is great to now revisit some of the stories and of course the photographs.
Here’s some: one of my all-time favorites Alex Majoli has spent considerable time over the last year “photographing the political, social and religious aspects of the present day problems” for his story “Internal Pressure in Pakistan”, to be seen over at the Magnum site. I don’t know if, or for whom, he has been on assignment for this work .. if you know, I would love to see what kind of stories it is running with.