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Author Topic: Anyone else desensitized ?  (Read 14649 times)
-Tom-
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« on: November 13, 2012, 12:30:27 PM »
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I was just browsing through my favorite photojournalism site (In focus) because they always have the most beautiful, high quality shots from all the latest important events over the world.

Their latest gallery feature are images from Syria. I've seen some war photography in my life (although I didn't look into it that much, don't like it, find it a bit vulture-istic) but the shots they have there now are crazy. There's a sequence shot of a guy running from the sniper fire over the street, running in one photo and taken down in another. There's a photo from sniper's point of view, looking through the scope.

I glanced over the images and continued surfing around. Although I'm aware I have some ADHD going on, I can't say I was impressed with the shots.

Am I wrong for thinking that we didn't have this influx of "gross" photography until the digital era? And are these photos doing anything good, or are they just desensitizing people, getting them used to the horrors?
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2012, 12:58:45 PM »
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Tom, you may have led a sheltered life, but these sorts of images have been around for decades, especially since the 1970's.  I don't think it will desensitise anyone because it is showing the pointless horror that most wars are.  Not sure what you mean by not being "impressed by the shots".  Do you mean they are not interesting, or that you could do better?  They are far removed from the photography most of us do and are valuable in telling the story to those of us lucky enough not to be there.  The sights sicken me, but I am glad to have seen them.

Jim
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-Tom-
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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2012, 01:06:43 PM »
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I wasnt alive in the 70s, so I dont know about the photojournalism back then Smiley I'm fairly new to the photography, I don't know the famous photographers by name, I need to get into that stuff, I haven't moved from the Flickr much...

As for the war photos I saw on InFocus website, I meant to say that the photos didn't shock me, but growing up in the 90s, in the midst of civil war, I remember I was stressed by the footage.

The shots from Syria (or any other war zone for that matter) seem so sharp, colorful, borderline staged, I can't feel emotion towards it, it doesn't shock me...that's what I've meant by "not interesting"...quality of those shots are way out of my league, but nothing connects in me when I see those shots...
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petermfiore
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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2012, 02:38:07 PM »
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I wasnt alive in the 70s, so I dont know about the photojournalism back then Smiley


Many of us were not Alive in the 18th century but could tell you much about the American Revolution.
Curiosity educates many.


Peter
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Michael West
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2012, 02:10:00 PM »
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I was just browsing through my favorite photojournalism site (In focus) because they always have the most beautiful, high quality shots from all the latest important events over the world.

Their latest gallery feature are images from Syria. I've seen some war photography in my life (although I didn't look into it that much, don't like it, find it a bit vulture-istic) but the shots they have there now are crazy. There's a sequence shot of a guy running from the sniper fire over the street, running in one photo and taken down in another. There's a photo from sniper's point of view, looking through the scope.

I glanced over the images and continued surfing around. Although I'm aware I have some ADHD going on, I can't say I was impressed with the shots.

Am I wrong for thinking that we didn't have this influx of "gross" photography until the digital era? And are these photos doing anything good, or are they just desensitizing people, getting them used to the horrors?

Not stuff Id care to do.

The shock should be unavoidable. Those not shocked at some level by such images would have to viewed as desensitized. I was saddened.

Higher levels of detail and better color set these images apart from the stuff we saw from World War II.
 
 
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RSL
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2012, 10:46:21 AM »
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Tom, War photography goes all the way back to the civil war. Check the stuff by Bob Capa from WW II, or by David Douglas Duncan from Korea. I can tell you from personal experience that war is a bitch. Maybe looking at pictures of it will help to keep the world out of it, but unfortunately there are wars that simply have to be fought. WW II was one such. And although I know those ignorant of history will disagree: so were Korea and Vietnam.

But as I've said in at least one other thread, war photography has become pretty much a series of clichés. The genre was fresh in Capa's days and pretty much still fresh in Duncan's days, but since then everybody's been copying Capa and Duncan. It gets to be pretty old and depressing.

Forgot to add: Gene Smith (W. Eugene Smith). Until he was wounded in WW II, Gene did some of the finest war photography ever done by anybody. But originality resided in every bone in Gene's body. He constantly saw the world through eyes that were new.
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2012, 09:16:52 AM »
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..... but unfortunately there are wars that simply have to be fought. WW II was one such. And although I know those ignorant of history will disagree: so were Korea and Vietnam.

Russ, I don't want to start a whole new debate here, but while I agree with you about WW2, I think the case for Vietnam and Korea are open to debate.  It all depends on whether you think such foreign adventures can be justified considering the huge destruction and loss of life.  WW2 was much more about an immediate threat to the free civilised world.  And I do not consider myself to be ignorant of history, although like almost anyone there is always more to learn.

Jim
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SunnyUK
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« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2012, 11:18:20 AM »
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Going back to Tom's original post. I went to see the World Press Photographe 2012 exhibition a week ago. One of the things I realised as I walked around looking at all the amazing pictures was indeed how desensitized I had become.

There was a series of photos from an Ukranian interrogation room, where a suspect (one assumes) has a gun held to his head. There was pictures from fighting in Syria. There were pictures of people being hung in Egypt. And yet the image that made the most impact on me was showing a 4 year old girl looking worried at her dad who suffered from AIDS. She was showing emotions that a girl that age should not have to know about. But all the horror from the wars - yes, very horrible, but at the same time there was a big dose of "we've seen all this before" which indeed did desensitize me.
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2012, 11:47:33 AM »
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It's a strange thing then, because although I have probably seen thousands of war type images over many years, I still find myself touched by them.  Seeing pictures of a row of corpses laid out on the Eastern front in WW2 still leaves me with a feeling of sadness for the loss of life and for how it must have affected their families and friends.  I can imagine being desensitised if you are actually there at the time and continually subjected to death and destruction.  The human mind has a self protection mechanism to prevent the person being overwhelmed by events.

Jim
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kencameron
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« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2012, 10:03:26 PM »
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But as I've said in at least one other thread, war photography has become pretty much a series of clichés.
Is this any more true of war photography than of any other genre? I think there are a few clichés doing the rounds in landscape and street photography and any other genre you care to name.
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RSL
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2012, 03:26:33 PM »
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Russ, I don't want to start a whole new debate here, but while I agree with you about WW2, I think the case for Vietnam and Korea are open to debate.  It all depends on whether you think such foreign adventures can be justified considering the huge destruction and loss of life.  WW2 was much more about an immediate threat to the free civilised world.  And I do not consider myself to be ignorant of history, although like almost anyone there is always more to learn.

Jim

Jim, I don't want to start an extended debate either. I note that you're nine years younger than my oldest son, who was a seal, but who just missed Vietnam, so I have some idea of where you're coming from. I was in both wars; twice in the case of Vietnam, and my point of view is a bit different.

Korea never should have happened. Our state department under Truman basically told North Vietnam and China that we didn't much care what happened to South Korea. When North Korea acted on that information things suddenly looked different. We still were very much into the Philippines with Clark AFB and a huge naval installation at Subic Bay. We had plenty of other interests in the Western Pacific, and it was clear that if we didn't fight, we'd end up with an even bigger war on our hands. I can't knock our decision to join the war, but I certainly can knock the kind of mindless "diplomacy" that led to it. Fortunately our military was led by people with plenty of WW II experience, so they knew what they were doing. Not so our politicians and diplomats who managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Vietnam was a bit different, but again the problem started with some really dumb diplomacy. To make a long story shorter, as WW II wound down, instead of backing France's desire to hang on to its empire we should have been backing Ho Chi Minh. In the end we all screwed it up so badly that the French got whipped at Dien Bien Phu, which certainly is at or near the top  of the annals of all-time stupid military fiascoes. If you don't know about that one, read "Hell in a Very Small Place."

In the end I think that to preserve our interests in the Western Pacific we needed to fight in Vietnam, but by then both our diplomacy and military leadership was some of the worst in history. That Kennedy allowed Diem to be assassinated was an incredibly dumb move. Then, our military leadership decided that body counts could measure our success; another incredible stupidity. I could go on and on about the dumb things I saw happen during my two Southeast Asian tours, but there's no point in that.

I think both wars were necessary to avoid something even worse, but both were very badly handled by our leaders.
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2012, 09:01:40 AM »
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Russ, I do bow to your greater knowledge on this subject - and obvious experience.  I can see sense in all that you say.  It may seem simplistic, naive and idealistic, but it seems to me that all war is a waste and ultimately pointless.  It is always politicians and power-mongers who seem to start them - and the young who go to fight them.  I'm only 51 and would be far too sensible to go off to war unless somebody was directly threatening my home. I did a short spell in the Navy 1980 -83, though not involved in any action as I was training during the Falklands War.  However my grandfather was a big influence on me.  He spent four years 1914-18 fighting the Turks in what is now Palestine, Egypt, Iraq etc.  He always said the whole thing was a waste of time, all the dead friends etc, and afterwards we just gave it all back.  He would turn in his grave if he could see all the young soldiers back out there fighting in the same area again.

Jim

PS - I didn't realise you were quite so old!  Smiley
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RSL
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« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2012, 09:41:14 AM »
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War always is waste, Jim, but it's never  pointless if you're being attacked. The problem is to identify an attack. It's easy to do that if your own country is being invaded, but consider the situation in which the United States found itself prior to WW II:

Most of our people wanted to stay out of that "European" war. But if we'd gotten into it early and the Western democracies had brought Hitler to heel while he was relatively vulnerable, the fight would have been much smaller. As it happened, we had to wait until we were attacked in Hawaii to join the fight, and by then, instead of the forces of a single dictator on a single front we had to face the forces of three on multiple fronts. By being unwilling to face the waste of a relatively small war we had to face a worldwide catastrophe.

And of course Britain wasn't any smarter. Churchill pled with the British and the French to smack down Hitler before he could build his forces to a dangerous level, but nobody wanted to listen. As he put it in those days, "The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet," and history clearly bore him out.

Then we watched the Soviet Union begin to swallow as much of Europe as it could, and communists in the East begin to encroach upon their neighbors. If the West hadn't shown its willingness to fight in places like Korea and Vietnam -- especially Korea -- do you really think those cancers wouldn't have expanded and metastasized?

Now we're right back where we were in the late 1930's, this time watching the rise of Islamists who want to take over the world and who now, because nuclear weapons exist, can create catastrophe without raising a large military force. And yet the general reaction among the Western democracies seems to be: "Ho hum. No big deal." We even have politicians trying their best to downplay what's an existential threat.

Your granddad was right, in a sense, but you also always have to look beyond the point "where ignorant armies clash by night," and understand what evil forces have brought on the clash. Sometimes, as in the late 1930's, the future's not awfully hard to predict, and what needs to be done isn't hard to see. Sometimes that's war.
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2012, 07:00:00 PM »
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As others have rightly pointed out, these types of images have been made for decades.  The image of a VC getting shot in the head by a South Korean soldier is particularly memorable.  Or the shot of the little Vietnamese girl running down the street naked.  She now lives about 10 minutes away from me.  Watch and/or read 'The Bang Bang Club'.  Watch 'War Photographer'.  Watch the HBO series 'Witness'.  Read 'Slightly Out of Focus'.
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Vladimirovich
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« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2012, 07:21:09 PM »
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Korea never should have happened. Our state department under Truman basically told North Vietnam and China that we didn't much care what happened to South Korea.


you mean North Korea, which was run by a lowly Soviet  (Red) Army captain later known as Kim Il-sung, was listening to some state department  Grin when uncle Joe was still alive and kicking ? you gotta be kidding...
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RSL
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« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2012, 01:03:26 PM »
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I'm not kidding at all, Vlad, though it looks as if I misspoke. After WW II The Truman administration was busy helping France hang on to its Indochinese empire but made it clear they had little interest in South Korea. And yes, Uncle Joe was alive and kicking. When I was flying fighters in Korea in 1953, some of the guys I was with had gone on R&R to places like Hong Kong and had drinks with Russians who were flying Migs out of North Korea.
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Rob C
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« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2012, 04:19:11 PM »
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In the end, we all get desensitised spiritually. To everything but love. If you're lucky, that grows stronger.

Rob C
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amolitor
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« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2013, 03:30:18 PM »
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Sontag makes the point that sensitization is sort of irrelevant anyways. Well, I don't know if that was the point she was going for, but it's where she got to.

Sure, we're shocked by these images at first, and later, not shocked. So what? When we're shocked by them, we're damn happy that it's not us in that picture. When we're less shocked by it, we're still happy to not be the poor guy in the photo, but we're not as worried about it.

If it doesn't cause us to do anything, and usually it doesn't, what the hell does it matter? There is this notion that is we are shocked by a photograph, we will be motivated to DO SOMETHING and make the world a better place, but when we are desensitized than our motivation flags and we don't, and that THIS is why the world is not being made a better place. And that's a load of bollocks. Whether we're shocked or not seems to have nothing to do with it.

Photographs don't even, really, shape our opinions in any meaningful way - we read photographs of shocking things as supporting whatever ideas we have. If it's the Bad Guys doing something awful, well, it's proof that we should go shoot all those Bad Guys. If it's the Good Guys doing something awful, well either it's a staged photograph designed to smear the Good Guys or its proof that the Good Guys are such a dire situation that they're forced to do terrible things, and in either case we should go shoot all those Bad Guys.
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2013, 03:47:32 PM »
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Sontag makes the point that sensitization is sort of irrelevant anyways. Well, I don't know if that was the point she was going for, but it's where she got to.

Sure, we're shocked by these images at first, and later, not shocked. So what? When we're shocked by them, we're damn happy that it's not us in that picture. When we're less shocked by it, we're still happy to not be the poor guy in the photo, but we're not as worried about it.

If it doesn't cause us to do anything, and usually it doesn't, what the hell does it matter? There is this notion that is we are shocked by a photograph, we will be motivated to DO SOMETHING and make the world a better place, but when we are desensitized than our motivation flags and we don't, and that THIS is why the world is not being made a better place. And that's a load of bollocks. Whether we're shocked or not seems to have nothing to do with it.

Photographs don't even, really, shape our opinions in any meaningful way - we read photographs of shocking things as supporting whatever ideas we have. If it's the Bad Guys doing something awful, well, it's proof that we should go shoot all those Bad Guys. If it's the Good Guys doing something awful, well either it's a staged photograph designed to smear the Good Guys or its proof that the Good Guys are such a dire situation that they're forced to do terrible things, and in either case we should go shoot all those Bad Guys.



But how do you tell who the Bad Guys really are?

Rob C
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SunnyUK
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« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2013, 09:38:44 AM »
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But how do you tell who the Bad Guys really are?

Rob C

That's easy. The losers of any war are always the bad guys, and the winners are always the good guys. The winners write the history books.
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