War Porn, Christoph Bangert, photojournalism, fotogiornalismo, giornalismo, reporter, guerra, war, morte, testimonianza, censura, censor, witness

reviews

WAR PORN

These are not my best pictures. I have beautiful, dramatic, well-composed pictures from war and disaster zones. Landscapes, portraits, details; the boom and the bang. But this book is not about the drama of war or the phony myth of the heroic war photographer. I'm just trying to start a conversation about how we deal with-or don't deal with-images of horrific events. It's an experiment: What's happens if I switch my self-censorship mechanism off?

We all self-censored. I do. Picture editors do, their usual refrain being, "Unfortunately, this goes beyond what we can publish." and you do, too! Our brains try to protect us by preventing us from looking. We are afraid that we might be afraid. We worry that the act of looking could be morally wrong, exploitative, even voyeuristic. This self-censorship mechanism, often wrongly confused with piety or respect, sounds like a good, honorable thing at first. Self-censorship can be extremely dangerous not only on a collective, but also on a very personal level. My grandfather, who served the Nazi regime, chose to forget what he had seen. We remember in still images. Not in video, not in text. If we don't allow our selves to look at horrific images, how will we be able to remember events comprehensivively? We have to remember! because if we don't, these events did not take place.

At time there is anger. The invasion of Iraq made me angry. Our many failures in Afghanistan make me angry. But people who tell me that they can't look at my pictures make me angry, too. I'm a polite person. I always say, "Oh, no problem, I understand. It's a dilemma". But that's a lie. Deep inside, I'm screaming at the top of my lungs, "You can't look at my pictures? Well, try harder! You softy first world whiners" Wake up! Those are real people! If you can't stomach it, get the hell off this planet! You HAVE TO look at it!" But as I said, I'm a polite person. I don't talk like that. It wouldn't be fair, either. It takes a lot of guts to look at some of my images it's not easy at all. Some say, "What's the point of showing these things? We know that wars and disaster are horrible events." But are we really aware of just HOW horrible they are? Yes? Why are we so shocked by these pictures, then?

What you see in this book is my personal experience. And in a way it's yours, too, because these things happened in your lifetime. You has a viewer are complicit. You're the one who bears the greatest responsibility, because you have the power to make a conscious decision about what you want to see. There are pages in this book that are closed. You can easily open them with a knife or a letter opener. It's up to you. Deciding if you want to self-censor or not is an active thing. Sometimes you may even have to force yourself. And it can require a knife.

Most of my collegues who work in war and disaster zones have plenty of pictures like mine. All these images are sitting on hard drives, unseen. It would be too easy to blame this state of affairs, the evil of self-censorship, on "the media." I am part of this constantly mutating media organism most of the images in this book were shot for the New York Times but so are you: the person who reads, absorbs, and pay for information. Unfortunately, there is no conspiracy. "The media" is made by people.

Horrific images have the ability to shock and dehumanize, just as pictures of sexual pornography do. Much has been written about this aspect of war photography, as well as about the aestheticization of violence, voyeurism, and the weird attraction we all feel toward images of other people's suffering. I'm leaving all these clever thoughts for others to discuss. I'm a photographer. I feel I have an obligation to publish my images. If I don't, I've failed. I'm not claiming to be morally superior than, say, the young soldiers are rebels that I spent time with. And it does not matter to me what you call what I do. Call it war porn, if you like. I believe that it is impossible in horrific images entirely, just as it is impossible to avoid the exploitation of the subject dilemma, at least to a certain extent. OF COURSE photographers exploit their subjects! OF COURSE it's war porn! These are wonderful excuses not to publish horrific images. But there's one problem: these pictures are non finctional, unlike the ultra violent Holliwood movies we so readily consume, or the gruesome video games we play. They document and interpret real events. How can this work possibly be meaningless or insignificant? How can we refuse to acknowledge a mere representation a picture of a horrific event, while other people are forced to live throught the horrific event itself?

Ultimately, this book is my insurance policy for the day that my grown grandchildren ask me what wars and disasters are like. I won't talk about horses. I will have to pull this old book from the shelf and say, "This is what it was like for me. This is what I remenber. Look."

Christoph Bangert

http://www.christophbangert.com/

 

 

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