Friday, September 4, 2009

A Thousand Words

They can't hurt you unless you let them. a picture's worth. Some people see a picture and they see a picture. Other people see the event during the moment that picture was taken. Still others go further to see the meaning of it, the emotions, the consequences. They see the world that is encapsulated in the photo and I tend to compare my world to theirs, either to get an understanding of their world or to maintain a gratitude for mine.

However, sometimes those stories and worlds we see can be overwhelming and at times heartbreaking. This afternoon, I was thumbing through a few magazines when a photography journal caught my eye. One of the headlines on the cover was something along the lines of "Photos that changed History". It was a collection of photos that had an affect on society, journalism, legislation, the world. Some of the photos that were included were "Piss Christ" (a photo of a crucifix submerged in urine, consequently government funding only went to art programs that didn't contain "blasphemous" or "sacrilegious" art after it won an award and angered conservative legislators). Or the photos of Abu Ghraib that showcased US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners leading to a global outrage. One photo that stuck with me was photographed by Kevin Carter during the Sudan famine in 1994.

The child is crawling towards a UN food camp while a vulture lurks, waiting for him to die. The photographer, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo, committed suicide from depression months after being awarded. The photo speaks volumes of the child's situation, his despair, and the world in which he lives. The result of this photo's unleash are just as haunting.
There is so much to be said about this photo and so much can be construed... should I feel selfish for all that I have? Or should I feel selfish for wanting more? Should I sacrifice more to make up for those who have nothing to sacrifice?
This photo does more than just make us grateful for our own situation in life... but I hope it teaches others empathy, and that the things we are grateful for are trivial matters. The photo is humbling to say the least. Why do people shelter themselves from images like this when it teaches us so much? Because we don't want to feel bad for others--Only for ourselves? Or does it hurt us knowing we can't--or won't--help those.... Does the discussion that ensues from a photo like this... help us? Or hurt us?

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