Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Dark, murky - I thought that this photo of the bottom of a flower vase would be all shimmering and revelatory of the Mexican tile that it's standing on - instead of which, it looks decidedly sultry.  I'd been heading for the tranquil as a counterblast to today's Writing and Photography class on photography and trauma and atrocity.  It wasn't the first time that I've taught this topic, of course, nor the first time that I'd shown some of the most harrowing photos, but it certainly was the first time I'd had such extreme reactions (one student left, at least one other was in tears - and yes, I did warn students before we started that the subject matter might be tough going, and I'd understand if they shut their eyes or, indeed, left ...).  But in the - oh, I guess it's eight years - that I've been teaching one variant or another of this course, students' familiarity with photo technology has shifted so much: they all expect to find on line instant images of what's happening in Syria, say, taken by individuals who happen to be on the streets, happen to have a camera phone to hand, which creates a completely different reaction, on their part, to the idea of the iconic news photo - that's now something for them, it would seem, that's consigned to deep history.  I asked them to imagine what our knowledge/image repertoire of 9/11 would have been like if there had been cell phones then, which certainly stretched them into some dark places.

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