Looking at Others

The focal point in this weeks topic was the image of Afghan woman, Aisha who was on the cover of Time magazine in 2010. The publishing of this image on the front cover of the magazine was met with much scrutiny and controversy. Issues were raised not about Aisha’a mutilated face, but the caption with which accompanied the photo – ‘What Happens if we leave Afghanistan’. A pretty cocky title if you ask me. The combination of those 6 words with the picture of Aisha represent exploitation and an absurd twisted kind of guilt trip, attempting to make readers feel that we must keep sending our troops over to Afghanistan to save the women who “evidently” can’t look after themselves. Upon reading the article itself, one quickly notices that Aisha is barely even mentioned – her image is just a nasty selling point. Needless to say, if sales and publicity is what Time were aiming for with this issue, they definitely succeeded.
Stemming from the publishing of images like Aisha’s comes the question, should confronting images (particularly war photo’s) be made available for the public to see? In short, I think that war images should be published, they need to be seen. A lot of people seem to live by ‘ignorance is bliss’, which is fair enough, as a lot of war images are very confronting, but I query how we can learn from our mistakes in an empathetic manner without having some sort of insight as to what is really going on. In the reading ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’, Susan Sontag states that ‘A photograph is supposed not to evoke but to show. that is why photographs, unlike hand-made images, can count as evidence’ (p. 42).
This point really reinforces why I think war images should be published. While they can make you feel squeamish, you are looking at what needs to change and have a form of evidence showing you why this shouldn’t happen again.
In terms of war, I don’t think ignorance is bliss, these images need to be seen, and the captions need to reflect the image in order to create a better understanding. If a picture is worth 1000 words, why is it that images that potentially convey the most meaning are being left unseen?

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2 thoughts on “Looking at Others

  1. Interesting point you make about photographs and their purpose being to show, not evoke, and this is why they count as evidence. This I agree with but what I think pictures lack is context and the ‘what happened next’. While I definitely believe that we need to see war images in order to change, I think too much emphasis can be placed on a single image. For example that image of the starving African kid huddled on the ground with a vulture in the background. While it shows the terrible state of affairs in parts of Africa with children starving, it is so hard to create a whole story based around this one image. The photographer may have for example motioned for the child to stay down, he may have given him a sandwich afterwards or scared the bird off. Images like these need to be seen but I think we need to be careful when creating a story and context for the image as we usually don’t actually know behind the scenes of that image

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