Photography 1 C&N Project 1 Eyewitnesses?

Exercise:

Find some examples of news stories where ‘citizen journalism’ has exposed or highlighted abuses of power.

How do these pictures affect the story, if at all? Are these pictures objective? Can pictures ever be objective?

Write a list of the arguments for and against. For example, you might argue that these pictures do have a degree of objectivity because the photographer (presumably) didn’t have time to ‘pose’ the subjects, or perhaps even to think about which viewpoint to adopt. On the other hand, the images we see in newspapers may be selected from a series of images and how can we know the factors that determined the choice of final image?

Think about objectivity in documentary photography and make some notes in your learning log before reading further.

MY NOTES:

With the rise of social media and the ability to upload pretty much, whatever you please, for the general public to see, Citizen Journalism has also risen. It’s so easy to get information “out there”, get your point across and have your voice be heard.

Citizen journalism certainly has it’s pros, since media, like everything else can be quite limited and even, at times, controlled by the state. Making it hard for people to receive truthful information. But, who’s truth can you really believe except your own? And if you are not there to witness an event in person, then it is up to you to make the most informed decision based on the information available, this is where a multitude of varying opinions in the form of photographs and videos, made by the general public, can be quite useful.

Also, there may be event’s that were quite unexpected and had little media coverage other than from the people who were present. Video footage appeared online from inside a Texas Walmart in El Paso where a gun massacre targeting random people was happening. The same happened in 2005 when the 7/7 London bombings took place, photos and videos were taken by the very people experiencing this event on the trains.

(1)

Photo captured in the aftermath of the London bombings show people trapped underground, giving viewers a first Hand view of the horror of the event.

This type of journalism, could alert authorities, save lives, help in the capture of those responsible and give people a realtime image of what a situation was really like, from someone who was there and experiencing it in the first person. However, I do feel that this is usually better viewed in video form instead of photographs since you are able to capture more information that way. However, it must be considered that these images could be used to backup and fulfil someone’s agenda in the aftermath, such as a way to justify war, for instance. This may have not been the way the photograph was intended to be used in the first place, but such horrifying and scary images (especially when captured by a “normal and average” person) have the ability to shock people into potentially following an agenda by utilising their fears, that they may not have been so eager to follow previously.

I don’t believe that photographs can ever truly be objective. Capturing a tiny moment (essentially a millisecond in time) amongst an event and expect it to be viewed without prejudice from the viewer or to display it in a way that holds no subjectivity whatsoever from the photographer is an impossible task in my opinion. Even in filmography where you receive a larger chunk of information, can still be shot and edited in a way that may favour a particular side of an event or argument. So you could never really form a truthful opinion based on only one person’s journalism of an event since that person has already picked their side of the fence before they even captured information and thus they will choose to release the photographs which best describe this. If you were a person so un-opinionated about an event, what would you even be doing there? And if you happened to pass by, you wouldn’t think to raise your phone camera and take pictures, let alone release them to the general public. There always has to be an initial bias to prompt a person to act in the first place.

What is the objective of the person providing this information. Are they a passionate activist attempting to sway a demographic towards the favour of their cause? Do they personally have a stake in this event? You must consider what they hope to achieve without jumping into the virtual “justice” system and the keyboard Lynch mob that can be created online. It is all too easy to judge a situation when you have access to limited information (such as a simple photograph) and this kind of judgement can be quite dangerous and very ignorant.

It isn’t always easy to tell if photos are even real. You must also be aware of fake journalism when viewing anything online and consider the sources, do you trust the person providing this information and how can you be sure of that?

Then, there is also the fact that we can all view a photograph and collate many differing views and opinions on it. This can be said for any type of photography. We aren’t always convinced by the photographers intention, since we all have our own minds and viewpoints.

I believe therefore, that the onus falls upon both the photographer and also the viewer to determine their own truth. I don’t believe it will ever be possible for an entire audience to reach the same conclusion from any single photograph, but this, in my opinion, is what makes photography so interesting, it provides information but it never has it’s final say.

EXAMPLES OF CITIZEN JOURNALISM

Pro-Democracy Demonstrations in Hong-Kong 2014-Present

This image (2) showing a pro-democracy protest in 2014 is a good example of highlighting abuses of power. The same is happening in Hong Kong now, where there is a ban on assembly and anyone defying this is dealt with quite violently, there is also pressure on media outlets with ties to China about the way in which they are reporting these events. This is a fine example of a situation where perhaps, Citizen journalism isn’t only useful, it’s vital for the freedom of speech.

Hong Kong students clashing with police during the 2014 protests
© @hongkongprotester

Burma Protests 2007

Anti-Government Protests took place in Burma (3), with authorities reacting violently and with force. People from Burma began to upload photos and images to the internet to expose what was happening to them

Anon. Soldiers occupying the Sule Pagoda

The examples above could affect the stories quite considerably as it depicts the authorities encroaching on the lives of the ordinary in an oppressive and frightening way. Soldiers entering a place of peace and worship is a powerful image which immediately paints them as “the bad guy” (rightly or wrongly) despite the reasons for them doing so, which are not necessarily obvious from this single image. The same can be said for police officers towering over cowering students on the ground, one of whom appears to be holding her face in pain as a policeman looms over her in full riot gear. We cannot know the whole story of what unfolded in this event, so we come to our own conclusion from the information displayed, which, for the majority I’m sure, would be police officer = bad, student on the ground = victim. Objectivity plays no part in these images whatsoever and I don’t believe it can do as I have stated previously.

REFERENCES:

  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/7015097.stm
  2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/07/AR2005070701522.html
  3. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/photojournalism/power-people