Friday, November 9, 2007
I'm a student of the University of Southern California and I recently wrote a paper covering War Photography, specifically David Douglas Duncan, and Robert Capa. These men were heroic, as most people who have read this blog know. Mr. Norfolk is just as brave as these men were. When Capa and Duncan worked however, they produced images that no one, or atleast the commmon public, had ever seen. They were intended to shock, sure, but more to educate viewers on what was really going on. I am twenty years old so all I've seen on the front page is war images it seems. Views from Afghanistan and Iraq litter my mind. I have become to accustomed to seeing these images that its almost a second nature of mine to naturally flip past the first page because the image has lost its effect to surprise me. In no way has the level of photography gone down (its greatly improved) but I feel like these war images have lost its ability to shock the public. My question is this. How does one go about being a professional photographer in today's world given such a great challenge to entertain and show something that has already been seen countless numbers of times? We can't ask the soldiers to stage anything or blow more things up of course but is there a way to solve the dilemma of being creative and beautiful in an area of study that is running like a broken record?
Fantastic blog and I learned a lot from it. You can find my blog at http://petefromphiladelphia.blogspot.com/
Thank you again.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I love the world, but I like it on my own terms. During the time I was making those first photos (before World War II), I bought a Ford 1934 Turing car, the dream wagon for $400. I traveled through every state of the Union, all the provinces of Canada, across southern Canada, selling prints to magazines, shooting other photos for about three dollars a shot.
I'd sleep in the car at night and use drained oil from the crankcase of other automobiles that drove across the country. Milk was about nine cents a quart. I'd go to the baker's and get a second day-old cinnamon role. It was fantastic.
That car and I covered the whole western part of America, and part of Canada, and Mexico, for nothing. Free as a bird, you could camp anyplace, anyplace. In a cornfield, out in a forest, in the orange groves of California, which are all suburbs now. Nobody lifted a finger except to welcome you or offer you a shower.
Now you're afraid to put your head out at night.
That's the kind of world I grew up in, and that's the kind of world I hope kids will inherit.
I had one, still have one basic principle. I never once photographed the face of a dead trooper, either American or Japanese or Korean or Vietnamese - never. I covered a lot of stuff other than just World War II: Korea, and Viet Nam. If you're on the battlefield as a civilian, you can walk away. They can't. They're stuck. They're in uniform. And it's not my privilege to photograph you if you've been shot. You have no defense against me.
I want to give a full picture of what's happened. But if it doesn't violate their privacy --that's number one. To hell with the photograph.
In many places, I was considered a bit odd, eccentric, because I didn't run. I walked. If I run I might run straight into it, if I slow down I might catch it this way. I do it on my own terms, so I slowed down and walked around and did these things and I've been very lucky. A couple little scratches but that's like a bumper job.
It's what I enjoy doing. Why does a bird sing? They sing, you know. It's very simple. I'm not doing it to satisfy you, that's for sure, I'm doing it to satisfy me. I do what I want to do to the best that I can do it.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
This article is a comparitive journalist piec of War Photography books written by famous Photographers. It has extracted gripping quotes about war and what it was like to be over there.
HERE'S no way around it," rues Michael Herr in Dispatches, the Under Fire of the Vietnam generation, "if you photographed a dead Marine with a poncho over his face and got something for it, you were some kind of parasite. But what were you if you pulled the poncho back first to make a better shot, and did that in front of his friends? Some other kind of parasite, I suppose. Then what were you if you stood there watching it, making a note to remember it later in case you might want to use it? Those combinations were infinite, you worked them out, and they involved only a small part of what we were thought to be. We were called thrill freaks, death-wishers, wound-seekers, war-lovers, hero-worshippers, closet queens, dope addicts, low-grade alcoholics, ghouls, communists, seditionists, more nasty things than I can remember. . . . And there were plenty of people who believed, finally, that we were nothing more than glorified war profiteers. And perhaps we were, those of us who didn't get killed or wounded or otherwise fucked up."
This is an incredibly honest quote and extremely real. Michael Herr was a war photography who has been through it all. He talks about how much war photographers were like the modern day paparazzi. They were ruthless scavengers who needed the perfect shot to make money. So they would stand in the face of death dozens of times...not be affected by taking a close up shot of a dead soldiers face. Watching someone get shot behind a lense. Its truly insane to think about that. I can't imagine the visuals that these men see everytime they close their eyes. It has to be atleast very similar to what soldiers see after they come back from war.
It continues on to talk about such things liek the government keeping dead american soldier images away from the public. Susan Sontag is then mentioned debating this saying that we NEED these images to make things real. We see so many of the same images every day that it gets to a certain point where the war becomes less real...we need to be shocked every once and a while. War Photography cannot be staged. There is no art in it in the sense of letting the photographer develop and plan the shot. War photographers base their careers on instinct. Whatever happens is what is captured. Nothing is planned. Thats why they dont get a second chance at their photographs.
A really cool quote i found from famous photographer David Douglas Duncan reads like a creed:
Be close-Be fast-Be lucky
Never close-ups of the dead
War is in the eyes