Influence of the Photograph to Record the War

Document Type:Essay

Subject Area:Philosophy

Document 1

This article gives an analysis of chapter 2 of Sontag’s book and analyzes some photographs based on her views. Foremost,the significance of the quote "you give us twenty minutes, we'll give you the world" for Sontag is that within a brief period of time, instruments of the media including the radio can easily summarize information from events taking place around the world (Sontag,2003). This quote refers to the fact that the world being a global village, information can be spread swiftly from one corner of the world to the other. Electronic media has had a substantial impact on the spread of information across the globe because information can instantaneously move from every quarter to every point simultaneously. Moreover,the perceived difference ,for Sontag, on how different kinds of mediums affect people has to do with the fact that multimedia have the capacity of impacting people differently due to a variety of reasons including religion, culture, economics,business, beliefs and politics. For these reasons, information presented through different mediums will ultimately be interpreted differently. However, the interpretation of photographs by the viewer is not subject to the influences of politics, culture and religion and this is where the quote “ a photograph has only one language” comes in (Sontag,2003). Photographs have a more precise and direct form of communication in comparisons to other mediums. A well-timed photograph can summarize a lengthy narrative about a war, for example. The photograph is not subject to external influences other than the clarity and timing of the photograph and thus the viewer can in a glance, understand a heavy message from the photograph.

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The methods used to elicit shock sharply differ from those that would be effective in eliciting emotions such as awe and compassion (Sontag,2003). This is because shock is a negative emotion and is so strong to the the extent that post-rationalizing shocking information into a meaning that one can comprehend could take lengthy periods of time. Moreover, shock is a significant cause of discomfort and often results in people making concerted efforts toward avoiding it. Also, for shock to apply, there must be the double-coincidence of credibility and near disbelief. Shock is best elicited when an individual encounters something he or she has never encountered before. Sontag suggests that during the war era starting from World War I to World War II, reporters “ran out of words” with which to describe the events of the war (Sontag,2003).

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The atrocities and gruesome details of war ,including actions that would be considered inhuman, outright cruel and extremely flabbergasting could not be contained and packaged within words. Words were thus not objective enough-they would not paint the accurate picture of what was going on. Pictures are thus more objective and lacking in bias compared to other mediums because they allow people from all over the world to receive neutral and impartial information. Nonetheless, this does not mean that photographs do not allow some of human control because the photographer can choose the timing, angle and event with which to capture with his or her camera and thus add perspective to the photo. Burrows was thus effective in shaping public opinion against the presence of US soldiers in Vietnam. Photographers, and the journalistic world at the time, was extremely effective in guiding public opinion against the Vietnam war.

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With this impact in mind, Burrows’ photos did make “another gain in shock” (Sontag,2003). This is because by causing shock instead of being cliche’ Sontag concludes,in this chapter , that “the photographer intentions do not determine the photographs meaning”(Sontag,2003). This means that that despite photographs having significantly more objectivity, being more neutral and having less bias and allowing the point of view of the photographer , there is no guarantee that the viewer will interpret the photograph the way the photographer wants him or her to interpret it. The capturing of war veterans by camera while protesting against the war , who ideally should support the activities of the armed forces of their nation, and who are taught to support the military decisions of their government, speaks volumes about what the country felt about the war.

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This photograph suggests that the veterans too were sympathetic of the welfare of their fellow soldiers and felt that the suffering , and the war in general,was needless. In this photograph, a soldier is seen throwing his jacket as his fellow protestors watch. This is not a cliche’ photo and is shocking to the viewer. Also, this photograph carries extensive authenticity ,weight of artistry and weight of witness. It performs much better than a newspaper would in terms of describing the anguish that US soldiers were going through. Just as Sontag suggested in his words “ a photograph has only one language” , the photograph does not rely on any external interpretations for the anti-war message to be perceived and understood. files. wordpress. com/2014/10/vietnam-war-larry-burrows-21. Vietnam war photography as a locus of memory.

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 Locating memory: Photographic acts, 4, 201. Sontag, S. Regarding the pain of others.  Diogène, (1), 127-139.

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