Monday, December 1, 2008

World Aids Day Magnum Photos' access to Life Project

Here is the link to the World Aids Day Magnum Photos' access to Life Project.

They all fitted in two/three categories: either extremely colorful and attractive in nature (so as not to use the word 'exotic' somehow); or faded black and whites that betrayed the feel of winter skies (with the cliched pictures of African children quite obviously, you cannot miss that ever); and a couple had exposed an overwhelming darkness on the verge of taking over the entire frame.

I wonder why is it that the agency dispatched journalists to the rest of the world to go and click pictures of HIV/AIDS infected populations. Wouldn't as interesting photographs be found anywhere in Europe or North-America or Australia? Don't people get infected there, or is it simply an aesthetic route to be able to take on a higher moral stand as to the status of AIDS as taking endemic proportions (in the rest of the world obviously)?

Last week, I had to teach a piece by Susan Sontag on photography to my students and one of the recurring questions that arose was about whether photographs render us sensitive to the situation around us, or have we been so saturated by now that such pictures of war or the so-called Third World for instance would leave us insensitive. Is a de-familiarizing alienation effect (to put it in Brecht's words) still possible when it comes to photographs?

That's the feeling that I had when I saw these pictures. It's all been said-and-done by now. Anything more concrete to follow? Will the world ever begin to genuinely care? That is my question.

P.S: An interesting point that Sontag has on photographers, particularly when it comes to war pictures, is that the photographer while taking the picture of the Vietnamese monk reaching out for a can of petrol to burn himself for instance, or while taking a picture of a child getting shot by a soldier, is in fact acting as an accomplice to the crime (and NOT a witness) by virtue of the fact that at this point, he/she is probably the only person who could stop the crime and save a life. But obviously, that would be at the cost of a sensational picture.