Friday, 12 June 2009

Photo Censorship

Remember the pic of U.S. soldier Lynndie England with a prisoner on a leash? We look at it and think we understand — and in a way we do because the message is, in a general sense, obvious and, needless to say, England's behaviour is indefensible. This photo is however also sending quite some other messages that are not visible — and they should, hopefully, trigger questions such as these: Was this the normal treatment of prisoners? Who ordered or allowed it? How many soldiers were involved, how many prisoners? Who did know about this? And so on and so on.

In order to understand photos we always need to ask the famous five W's and the one H ? Who was involved? What happened? When? Where? Why? And, How did it happen?

Photos are tricky: they ratify what happened before a lens at a given moment; they do however not tell us what happened before and after the shots were taken. By singling out one moment, photos do not tell us a story but point in a certain direction for photos are at best indicators. They represent fragments but never give the whole story. Actually, they do not tell a story at all but they can trigger quite a many.

This does not mean that we shouldn't see the photos that Barack Obama and his cronies do not want us to see — in fact, quite the contrary — it however means that when we eventually will get the chance to see these shots — and undoubtedly we will, the first surfaced already — we need to remember the men and women who, by blocking their release, contributed to the cover-up of these abuses.

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