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Antiphotojournalism: What Does Reporting Really Entail?


Just saw a bad ass exhibit at the La Virreina Centre de l’Imatge in Barcelona entitled “Antiphotojournalism” and couldn’t wait to tell you ladies.  Its been up since July 5 but it wasn’t until recently, a rainy autumn day, that I found the time to check it out. All  I can say is, better late than never.

The premise of the exhibition, curated by Aperture magazine’s contributing editors Thomas Keene and Charles Guerra, is presenting a critical look at the once pre-conceived notions of the heroic photo journalist. Futher more, the project demonstrates how modern technology has transformed this ideal by calling into question the role of the journalist, how the media ”curates” the images it broadcasts internationally and, overall, the relationships of the images and the social struggle which the photos are supposedly conveying.

The concept was captivating and the show was more powerful than any World Press Photo exhibit I have ever seen. Its been a while since I’ve seen photos or videos of the impoverished, famished, marginalized along with casualties of war that made me really ponder what I was actually seeing. These images have become such a normal part of daily life that only the obscenely graphic makes me react, and, in fact, photos are much more brash in Spain than in the States. The media here in Barca doesn’t censor gory images of  assassinated drug lords or the bloated bodies of drowned immigrants, for example, like they do in the United States.

There were over 90 images and videos on display at the exhibit that offered a powerful commentary on the subject, however there were a handful that left a lasting impression on me.

The images by Paul Fusco, where he captured thousands of mourners standing by railroad tracks to greet the train carrying Robert F. Kennedy’s body, were haunting. He was hired to document all of the events surrounding the funeral but for me it was these pictures of Americans, black and white, saluting the funeral train were the most compelling.

Then there was Phil Collins‘ (not the singer from Genesis) “How to Make a Refugee”  videotape of a press conference, just across the border from Kosovo in Macedonia, in which two Kosovar refugee families are presented to the international media. On the video you can hear the shutters of photographers clicking like mad and the voice of a journalist asking the family questions. The odd part is every once in a while you hear a journalist give directions to a different family member on how to pose or look at the camera almost like a photographer would a model during a photo shoot.

The Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Gaza Strip (Palestine), “The Destruction of Destruction,” edited by Eyal Weizman with Yazan Khalili and Tony Chakar, presents excerpts from a vast photographic catalog and database of buildings destroyed  in Israel’s winter 2008-09 attacks. This was shocking because it gave a face to the destruction. The photos show literally mountains of rubble and next to them are information about the structure, square footage, previous owners and more.

There were also these music videos created by a group of television cameramen, don’t remember their names, but the clips covered the Bosnian and Somalian conflicts which weren’t suitable to air. This is what I would imagine MTV was doing when it broadcasted ”real news”; chopping up news highlights and laying them over contemporary musical hits. The experience was somewhat hypnotizing and I started to forget about the images as real representations of the news and more as a backdrop for the songs.

I’m giving the exhibit 5 out of 5 because I haven’t seen a show that moving in a long time.

-Espana Fly

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