Filed under: Pretending to be an Artist
I am no photographer. Nor do I claim to be one. But just watching the bevy of amateur self proclaimed photojournalist as they snap away sometimes saddens me. Myself, being a designer, know that there are certain responsibilities that that title holds. Making something cool only for the fact that it looks cool is irresponsible. There must be reasonings behind ideas, development based on explorations of interior space, materials, light, site, and a collection of other aspects. Such is the case in photography. I feel like the person who takes the photo has a responsibility. Truly a picture is worth a thousand words. But more importantly a picture can tell a story. And even without manipulation photographs can lie.
Take this famous photo from the Vietnam Conflict. It was snapped by the Pulitzer Prize winning Eddie Adams. In my favorite magazine, AdBusters it was featured which got me thinking like this. It said:
“This photo soon became the the most defining anit-war image of the Vietnam Conflict. The coldness of the killing, a single shot to the side of the head while the prisoner was handcuffed, cemented the perception that the United States and its allies were war criminals.”
But Eddie Adams who later wrote in Time magazine years later said he sympathized with Loan, General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, who is holding the gun in the image. He had just watched the Viet Cong brutally murder 34 of his soldiers and their family members. Eddie Adams also later wrote that:
“The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the General with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them…[but] they are only half-truths.”
So whose the villain who’s the victim? Which one is the terrorist? The power to decide that is in the photographers hands, and it is a power that holds tremendous responsibility. In a NYT article:
When General Loan was severely wounded while charging a Viet Cong hideout three months later and taken to Australia for treatment, there was such an outcry there against him that he was moved to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where he was repeatedly denounced in Congress.
Back in Saigon, Mr. Loan, who had been relieved of his command after having been wounded, seemed a changed man, devoting time to showering presents on orphans. At the fall of Saigon his pleas for American help in fleeing were ignored. But he and his family escaped in a South Vietnamese plane.
After his presence in the United States became known there was a move to deport him as a war criminal. But the efforts fizzled, and Mr. Loan, whose right leg had been amputated, settled in northern Virginia, where he eventually opened his pizzeria, which he operated until 1991 when publicity about his past led to a sharp decline in business. As a message scrawled on a restroom wall put it, ”We know who you are.”
Im just tired of all the self proclaimed photographers that take pictures and they have no meaning. Photography is an art, and can be a powerful form of expression, much like music or writing. We need more people who care about what kind of pictures they take, and take pride in the meanings they hold.
Filed under: Picture and a Couple Words
Enjoy the extra day peoples…
A South Korean tourist, left, and a North Korean guide at Pakyon Falls, the first stop on a tour
Ok, in my last post I very subtlety blasted the efforts of North Korea’s effort of a “Symphonic Diplomacy.” Being of Korean descent myself, I am very “touchy-feeley” when it comes to talking about this topic, whatever that means. In fact, when I blew out my birthday candles for the past 5 years I wished that I would have the opportunity to be alone with Kim Jong-Il inside a dark room with a samurai sword in my hand (and f.y.i., on the strength of those failures I have decided this year to just wish for a pony.) But staying on course, jennifer said:
“I can only hope that even with a little exposure to the outside world will make some sort of positive impact in North Korea”
Hope. Many events have given me hope for North Korea. The treatment of foreign press during the concert for example. I wrongly assumed (as I usually do), that they were on extremely strict leashes, with as much freedom as an Asian student during SAT season. Surprisingly they were provided with cell phones, unrestricted internet access, interpreters for every few journalists, and they even gave photographers unusual high freedom in what they snapped. Even the South Korean press got involved as South Korean television channel MBC drove in satellite trucks into the North. In more good news the North opened up a tour of Kaesong, which unlike Pyongyang, is just a regular town with regular civilians, although it is very picturesque, hence the tour.
BUT with all these unprecedented activities going on its hard for me to have hope for the North Korean people. I can not remember or think of a group of ethnic people separated by different countries where both groups of people being well off. Ireland comes to mind. So does Cyprus. The Kurds in Turkey/Iraq and the imperialist split-up disaster that is Africa. Hundreds of thousands of lives were sacrificed to stop the split of countries. Abraham Lincoln ONLY decided to go to war after the South decided to seceded. The VietCong absolutely bitch-slapped any attempt of splitting Vietnam. I refuse to believe any of this “opening of North Korea to the West” BS. Hell, the 2016 Olympics can be held in Pyongyang I still wont believe it. In the NYT article on the tour to Kaesong there was a story:
“One bus was filled with South Koreans who had grown up in Kaesong and were returning for the first time in six decades. Everything had changed, they said, except the very same tourist spots they were visiting.
On the steps leading to Sungyang, a Confucian lecture hall, another North Korean guide with a white bullhorn was dramatically interrupted by an old man who jabbed a large finger in the air and yelled out: “Why isn’t there a nameplate on the entrance? Every Korean house should have a nameplate.”
Flustered, the guide remained speechless as the South Koreans streamed past her into the hall. Inside, though, she said, “The Japanese imperialists took the nameplate and burned it during the occupation.”
Later, the man with the large finger, Lee Hee-tae, 80, who had lived here until the Korean War, said he was dissatisfied with the answer. “I don’t think the Japanese took it,” he said, “because I saw it after the end of the Japanese occupation.”
Overhearing his comments, a young North Korean guide asked, “Is there anything wrong?”
After listening to Mr. Lee’s explanation, the guide said simply, “I can’t believe you remember what happened 60 years ago.”
That just captures everything. He does remember. And hopefully things should change for the better while people like him still remember. But allow me to be the cynic, with apologies to everyone. But I guess thats “the audacity of Hope and there is nothing false about hope.” [(c) Obama] But again, some things will never change. [(c) Tupac Shakur]
…as long as Kim Jong-Il is alive anyway, stupid birthday wishes…..
p.s. Wow i just quoted Tupac and Barack back to back. That cant be scholarly writing…
Filed under: Pretending to be an Activist
AYOOOOOO, people I am now also blogging now at 8asians.com. It is a pretty cool blog with many different views from Asian-American authors and they present many interesting posts and ideas. Their link is also in my side bar.