Research/reflection on portraits-general

I looked at the work again of Kevin Carter of the vulture and the small starving child. The image is one that has a direct emotional impact of the viewer. It brings up some ethical questions as well and perhaps that can be mixed with sentimentality or emotional reactivity which makes the topic unclear.

In the scene one sees the girl crouching in a position of helplessness. Behind the vulture stalking his prey. It is almost an image in reverse of what we are used to seeing of man hunting the wild animal, in wait of his prey. Here the animal takes on the hunter and the girl the prey.

The two elements in the photo strongly juxtapose. Was this this photographers intention? Did the juxtaposition arise as a default. Obviously what he saw in that moment was a contrast and an image that was strongly juxtaposed. Anyone could see that, no need to be a photographer. In a sense there is nothing at all subtle about the image. Its power lies in the shock factor of what we see. The disbelief that such a situation can arise. Helpless beyond help apparently.

Some years earlier I saw the film: `The BANG BANG club´a evocative title in itself. In this film the moment that the photographer captures that particular shot one gets a sense of human misery beyond belief. No wonder Carter drew his life to an abrupt end as he had no way to process these existential situations that he was witnessing.

Along with this genre of photojournalism James Natchwey, one of my favourite photographers also shoots strong and evocative portraits of people that are half limbed or living in abject poverty. This kind of imagery can be overwhelming and at the same time deeply moving to see. The photographer in this case seems  to have had more of a way of dealing with his process around suffering. He once called himself a war photographer. Later he referred to himself as an anti-war photographer.

“It is very hard to say where you’re going until you get there. That kind of thing is based very much on instinct. As a photographer, one of the most important lessons I have learnt is that you have to learn to listen to and trust your own instinct. It has helped to guide me – this far at least.” James Natchtwey.

Read more:,James#ixzz3cOMDlSHH


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