Tuesday, June 2, 2009

subject echo: the power of images

i recently re-read Regarding the Pain of Others and Regarding the Torture of Others by Susan Sontag.  with the news lately, i have been thinking a lot about the cultural and political discourse around images of torture and war, and the way that our reactions to the images take on a life separate even from the referent (the act of torture) depicted within them.

much has been written about the ways in which war photography often echoes iconic religious imagery.  but i have been wondering how, in turn, the iconography of the new war and torture photography is also influencing fine art photographers today?  

no matter where you come down on the questions surrounding whether these photographs should be released (though i imagine most photographers believe that the images should be released and talked about), they inarguably seep into our individual psyches and ultimately have a profound affect on our cultural consciousness.

one example: today i was looking at photographs from a personal self-portrait project in which none of the images are explicitly politically-motivated, and saw in one of them traces of the Abu Ghraib torture photos.  perhaps i just have this on the brain, or perhaps the connections are there in a larger or sub-conscious sense.  as always, i'd love to hear your thoughts and see other connections.


above top, 2004 image of a prisoner being tortured at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, capture from a news video.

below, "Origin," from the series Bend So Not to Break by Jessica Somers.  more images, and a project statement, available at f-stop magazine.   Somers says that her self-portrait work "explores the struggle and balance between the choices one makes and the uncontrollable circumstances that intervene with these choices."  the images attached to the subject above appear to be old family photographs, but it is interesting to think of how we might interpret the final image differently if the photos depicted within it were diferent.

8 comments:

LouDuk said...

Photography with a message. Speaks to the soul.

Rebecca McKinley said...

What an interesting connection. I think we're all trapped by ourselves. We self-torture, in a weird sense.

melodie said...

I definitely agree with the comment about how we torture our own selves. It's so strange to see the horrifying pictures of physical torture, when in our society we are so used to a sense of physical comfort, but I do believe this has become the age of emotional torture in a way...

Mariana Soffer said...

Sontag is always right, it is impossible to debate her arguments.
I knew this post was mentioning her as soon as I read the title and saw the pictures, which where great by the way

Madame Ladybug (Ady) said...

I see the similarity...

Anonymous said...

~.....

Durga Praveen Kumar said...

It is more of a projective test but not with an abstract object. We do tend to interpret abstract objects in a photograph from many perspectives but the more obvious and little difficult ones are subjected to shallow processing, thereby connecting the information to just processed information in the Long Term Memory.

m.d.weaver said...

Photography: so-called "primative people", who are not exposed to the modern world, believe that the camera and any other source that copies the image of a person steals the very soul. War-time torture is meant to do the same. Do we then live among theives?