Sontag v. Nachtwey

James: Good afternoon Susan.

Susan: James, how have you been?

James: Fine, thanks. I just came back from a reporting trip to Bosnia. It’s amazing what is happening there. Amazing, but tragic. Do you want to see some photographs?

Susan: Certainly, but don’t you feel that taking so many of these photos kind of defeats the purpose of what you do?

James: In what way?

Susan: I just feel that by flooding the media with so many war photos it takes away from the value of those certain photos that actually could make a difference.

James: I don’t feel that way at all, Susan. I feel as though more of these pictures should be shared because they show people what is really going on in the world.

Susan: So you think showing people slide show after slide show of your pictures will actually make them care about what is going on wherever you are?

James: That is correct. These pictures are the most effective piece of anti war sentiment that we have. Nothing is more effective than a photograph.

Susan: At one point in time this was true, but now our culture is filled with so many photos that it is hard to pick out the ones that should actually mean something to us. Its almost as if we see one picture and then immediately forget about it, because once we turn our head, we see four more photographs on something different.

James: I see what you are saying, Susan. But this does not mean that we should stop documenting the realities of the horrific things happening in other parts of the world.

Susan: Photographs objectify, James. By their very nature they turn an event that happened in real time, into a mere object that can be possessed, framed, and put on a mantle. Many of the photographs you share are only a snap shot of the reality of the situation that is going on.

James: Of course there is a greater reality beyond the photographs I take. But by sharing the photos I gather over my time in a certain place I raise awareness among the public. If not directly through the photo, the people will see my photograph become intrigued and then look up more about the conflict on their own. The point of publishing these photos is that the influence and opinion of the people matter, and sometimes they can really make a difference.

Susan: So you are saying that the point of publishing these pictures is the benefit the cause and help fund the relief efforts.

James: Help raise awareness and benefit the cause yes, but not every photo has to sell something. If relief aid is sent to the area of the photograph then that is great, and obviously a beautiful thing, but that does not always have to be the end result for the photo to be a success.

Susan: It sounds like you go to all of these places and publish these photos simply because this is something that you are fond of doing, with no real sense of how photographs are perceived by the public today.

James: I take the photographs because it is important for people to see what is going on in other parts of the world, whether they like it or not. Would you rather people had no idea and never saw any of these images?

Susan: No, I believe in the images, I just do not think that our culture and society have the same appreciation for the photograph that they used to. Mainly because of the constant buzz of the media that surrounds everyone today, it is hard for the message to break through.

James: I see your point.

Susan: well, it was nice talking with you.

James: You as well Susan, you as well.

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