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Questions about:

The Civil War Photographers

Wed, 23 Sep 1998

Answer from Bang-jiou
Answer from Rosalba

From: "Stephane Mailliard" To: "Bang-Jiou"
To: "Rosalba Torres"


Good morning Bang-Jiou,
It is my pleasure to tell you about "The Civil War Photographers". It is my pleasure because of you, but not really because the topic which is pretty hard.
The purpose is the following:
You are a photographer trying to show what it really means to die in a bloody battle. (Very agreeable situation is it not?!). You have arrived at a battlefield. Dead soldiers lay scattered, hidden in ditches. (Nice landscape at the breakfast, is it not?!) You can barely tell they are bodies.
If you move then, you can get the dramatic picture you need. Do you move the bodies?
30% of the people answered:
Yes, it is important for people to understand the horror of war.
No, it is better to show things exactly as they are.
As you can see, 1% is missing. That is me who say: "I am staying at home because I am a coward scared by blood and the horror of the war."
The story is:
During the civil war, and in photographic reporting in general, the photographers have used and still use stagecraft techniques. Robert Kaplan for example became famous for his "reporting" during the Spanish war. He did totally phony pictures and presented it like snapshots.
The problem with photography is that it is supposed to show the reality.
It pretends to be an objective testimony. We know that in fact it is very easy to fake. For my to present phony pictures is a form of lie.
However, to show the reality you have often to emphasize it. In the TV, for example, you need to be make-up to have a natural look. In the radio, it is necessary to articulate and stress strongly important words in a manner you do not use in the real life if you want to be understood. To be entirely objective is almost impossible, in my mind. To choose a topic, to select it among others is already an opinion. Moreover, you have your cultural background and your own thoughts. For example, an atheist could consider the same information presented objectively by a person who believes in his religion, subjective.
For the journalist another problem is the tendency to use his power for himself, for becoming famous, getting money or serving his ideals.
One time I had to write an article about two software. I did a comparison with arguments and objectives elements. My conclusion was that one was better than the other was. The edition chief called me and asked me to rewrite my article because he could to lose the editor of the software as customer for advertising. I refused, he rewrote my article and I never worked again for this magazine. I lost my job.
What is your opinion? In your professional experience, had you to undergo pressures? If yes, what kind of pressures? Had you to confront with moral, religious or personal dilemma?
I am very interested by your opinion and your testimony. Thank you in advance for your answers that I am impatient to read.
With my friendship, Stephane.