James: Good afternoon Susan.
Susan: James, how have you been?
James: Fine, thanks. I just came back from a reporting trip to the Afghanistan and Rwanda. It’s amazing what is happening there. Amazing, but tragic. Do you want to see some photographs?
Susan: I would love. I have a big interest in photography. What are these pictures?
James: Here you are. Take a look and let me know what you think.
Susan: Wow. I must say that is a very dark looking image. By looking at it, I can tell that something tragic has happened at this moment in time. I feel sorrow for the woman in the picture because it seems as if she has lost something. What is this picture of?
James: This is an image of a woman in Afghanistan who is clearly hurting from the loss of someone close in the lines of battle.
Susan: So this photo is what some might consider war photography?
James: Absolutely. I see it as very symbolic for the people of Afghanistan at the time. They were struggling living in a warzone. I was only there for a brief while and I was starting to feel the impact of being so close to what was happening.
Susan: I’m glad to see that you are alright. I just don’t see the point in being so close to the action all for just a still image of a moment in time. It does not tell us anything in detail. I want to know everything I can about what is happening. I don’t think photos like this one provide me with enough context to draw actions from others in order to serve good. I guess what I am trying to say is, what is the point of this image? Sure it speaks for itself in terms of drawing attention. But what is actually happening? This picture does not give anyone the full story.
James: The point of the image is to bring attention to the harsh reality of war. Ultimately, as a photographer of these sorts of things I want people to see what I see when I travel. I see this photograph as a potential influence for more peace and less war by drawing attention to the suffering. I want to bring people to the front lines through my images.
Susan : But how do you expect this image to have such a tremendous impact on the viewers? They are exposed to graphic photos so often now a day they are often overlooked and forgotten without deeper understanding of the topic.
James: Images like these have deep symbolic meanings. You can’t argue that images like these don’t pack a good cause along with the tragedy we are witnessing. People are impacted the same way I am when i see stuff like this. And that is complete shock. I think to myself “how can we let this go on?”
Susan: I just don’t understand. People need context that connects the picture to a story. And referring back to your thoughts about bringing peace, peace is not the norm. War is a norm and peace is just an idea. I mention that in my writings in Regarding the pain of Others. How do you think photography will influence this?
James: Photography is the gateway to understanding. It provides visuals that expose those who are unexposed. It gives us a gateway to the frontlines. This will ultimately influence people to see the wrong in war and peace will prevail. How can this not work?
Susan: It can work but not to its fullest understanding without text surrounding it. Photographs lack context and are subject to exploitation and censorship.
James: I see truth in my photos. People are suffering around the world and my photos give them voice. How can a voice be given without providing clear examples through photographs not be the best way to convey this? Take a look at this photo next.
James: What do you think of this? does this photo not bring awareness to this young man who as well represent those who were held captive in the Hutu Death Camps in Rwanda?
Susan: Yes and no. The photo only scratches the surface of what happened there. By looking at this all i can see it that this man has suffered based on the number and severity of the scars on his face. We need to be able to look deeper. Sure people will look at it and be disgusted but is that really enough to have an impact on their life? And besides, so many images today are tainted by the media whose goals are business related.
James: Yes the photograph will change what is going on. Photos like these are so incredible close to the pain that people around the world will feel it too. and to address your point about the media, it’s important that as a journalist, i keep my focus on my journalistic responsibility. That is to report what is going on the way it is happening. No funny stuff.
Susan: Very interesting. But still James, I want more than just a photo to show people what is happening around the world. We look at so many photos now that they have become obsolete and most of us take them for granted.
James: That is true. Times are changing and with that, photography is too. I constantly look for new ways to generate more powerful images that speak the truth and only the truth.
Susan: I do agree with you on that. Spreading the truth is the most important thing. No matter how bad. In fact, i am advocating for more museums in Washington D.C.. One of which would include an American Slave museum that could tell truths about slavery other than simply the triumphant stories.
James: I would love to check that out someday. Thanks for your time but i have to run. Nice chatting with you
Susan: Sounds good James, see you and your photos soon!