Conflict Reportage ???

I am not someone who disagrees with the existence and fundamentals of ‘conflict reportage/conflict photography’. I in fact now, truly believe in James Nachtwey’s theory of ‘war photography’ being an antidote to war. But, that’s because I only saw the documentary about him – ‘War Photographer’. What you see there and I would like to assume in most of Jim Nachtwey’s work is human distress – images of the survivors of conflicts or the families of the deceased … What you don’t see is flowing streams of blood, lifeless bloody bodies, injured people rushing / being rushed towards help …

I am not someone who has studied journalism herself and knows the fundamentals and ideals, the rules and regulations of this noble career herself …

I am someone who out of a sheer sense of humanity, which I was naturally born with and not necessarily can take credit for, knows its wrong to show such images of gore, blood, and extreme distress in TV and print media.

An hour and a half into the blasts in Delhi this evening and I have seen the visuals of an unconscious woman, head covered in blood, being whisked away to medical assistance in the least appreciable way possible. Wait … I have not only seen these visuals … I have seen them repeatedly on the leading news channels of the nation.

I am someone who knows someone personally who decades ago was witness to a conflict situation and saw a person being killed … that someone has not since been herself, is prone to regular bouts of depression and needs constant medical attention. My immediate concern on seeing these images is that she is somehow kept away from TV and newspapers for at least the next couple of days …

I am someone who was once closely associated with according to me the best media house in all of India … a media house I no longer work with … a media house that today like all others is running these images of dead and injured people in an endless loop.

I am someone who today, at 8 pm, 13 Sept 2008 has lost all faith in the Indian media – all of it.

Instead of being an antidote to this ‘conflict situation’, the Indian Media today, like many times before, is rubbing salt in the herida abierta (open wound).

In today’s scenario, it almost seems that since the blasts weren’t that high intensity and there isn’t large-scale destruction to be seen, the media is showing images of dead and injured people to create an effect of a heightened conflict.

Where are their ethics? How much lower will they stoop? How many more open wounds will they create?

What is the solution to all of this? I believe it is reminding these very “top channels” of their ethics which they seem to have completely obliterated. I personally implore them … to stop creating these second-birth like conflicts minutes after an area, a state is hit with such distress …


James Nachtwey

James Nachtwey grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from Dartmouth College, where he studied Art History and Political Science (1966-70). Images from the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement had a powerful effect on him and were instrumental in his decision to become a photographer. He has worked aboard ships in the Merchant Marine, and while teaching himself photography, he was an apprentice news film editor and a truck driver. In 1976 he started work as a newspaper photographer in New Mexico, and in 1980, he moved to New York to begin a career as a freelance magazine photographer. His first foreign assignment was to cover civil strife in Northern Ireland in 1981 during the IRA hunger strike.

Seeking answers?

There are some questions that I seek answers to and some others that my soul yearns for that they be answered. They well up inside me until they come out in a surge and flow out into this colossal universe and get washed away by infinite others.

If God sees us humans destroying our very home, destroying each other and everything that is around us or comes in our way, why doesn’t he stop us?

Does he try but we just never listen?

Is it wrong to think about what I am going to have for breakfast whilst I read about people plagued by flood, homeless, foodless, clothe-less, lifeless?

Is it wrong to eat popcorn with coke vegetating in front of the television whilst a little child cleans my house?

Is it ok to not give the beggar seeking alms at the traffic signal any money because you have heard stories how some of them just use that money to buy drugs or the money that some of them make eventually goes to their agents (dalals)?

Is it right to sit in a plush eatery with a glass of wine, another of Perrier, a platter of chicken tikka, a pack of rich cigarettes and claim to want to benefit the world?

Is it correct to meet 40 somethings in their classroom being taught about the need to wash their hands after having been to the toilet and washed their excreta with their very hands; feel something for them for a bit and then forget about them?

Is it ok to meet whole families living in dump yards, stepping on the shit piled up on their porch, watch them consume whole meals amongst the garbage, the shit; throw up in a corner further dirtying their home, come back to your own home which is spick and span and forget about those families?

Is it all right to be a part of a gang war in a ravished slum cluster where no one remembers the reason why the gang war started; take pictures by bribing the underdog, come back home and use those photographs for your material benefit and forget about the people of the cluster who are miserably stuck in a life they didn’t sign up for?

Is it justified to meet hair collectors (people who go from house to house in slums et al and collect the hair that have fallen off people’s head whilst combing their hair), befriend them so you can film them, take pictures with them and then leave, using those pictures for your benefit, whilst never looking back at those people who you had befriended?

Is it all right to curse whilst driving, every car that overtakes you and wish that the driver ends up in an accident when they could actually be in a need to get somewhere urgently, like or unlike yourself?

Is it ok to hate the person sitting next to you in a movie theatre because he/she is getting emotional about a scene from the film?

Is it ok to have so much vengeance, so much hatred for this world at times that you could curse the whole world, wish it would all be destroyed?

Is is ok to wish death upon ones like you around you?

Is it ok to bare your soul?

Is it ok to not bare your soul?

Is it ok to watch the film about James Nachtwey, cry one minute, be moved when he says that “war photography is in a way an antidote to war” and think about your next meal before the film ends?