For those of us who work in journalism the myth of the cavalier photojournalist who rushes toward conflict with zeal is well established. Robert Capa’s famous comment about photographers needing to get close to the action in order to capture the best picture is part of industry folklore. Don McCullin has spoken about the adrenalin rush of going to war, likening it to drug addiction. Tim Page’s antics during the Vietnam War have been immortalised in pop culture, Dennis Hopper’s character in the movie Apocalypse Now modelled on the British photographer. Yet while there are those who are lauded as celebrities, the vast majority of conflict photojournalists work in the background, committing themselves to covering some of the world’s darkest moments, to bearing witness to history, largely invisible to the outside world. Glory and money do not motivate them. In fact, these days it is more difficult to make ends meet than ever before. So what drives an individual to the frontline or to document the depths of human misery?
Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – 7 February, 2020 – Photojournalism NowPhotojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – 7 February, 2020
What’s the Point of Conflict Photography? – Witnesshttps://witness.worldpressphoto.org/whats-the-point-of-conflict-photography-ee565909f778
At the time, I was teaching a course that concentrated on conflict photography and ethics. At one point during the semester, we were studying the coverage of a famine in Sudan in the early 1990s. My students had to read about the history of that famine and about the political forces that shaped it. They studied the photojournalistic and documentary coverage of this crisis and they read critiques of that work. On the day we were to discuss the coverage of that famine, I put up an image in class; it came from the homework that was assigned to the students. It’s a black-and-white photo taken at a feeding center in Sudan and it portrays a man who is severely emaciated, as thin as you can imagine a person to be. In fact, he is so weak that he cannot stand; he’s crawling on the ground. In this sense, it’s a painful photograph that confronts you with how dire situations of suffering can be.