Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The way I see it...


Faces of Ground Zero is the title of a photography book and traveling exhibit (by Joe McNally), both of which purport to be a "Tribute to America's Heroes", but I just don't/can't see it that way. To my eye and sensibility, it looks like little more than commercial crap and media flap.

There are seemingly ever-emerging bodies of recent disaster/tragedy photography (by individual photographers) which seem to exist soley as excercises of "artistic" expression. In addition to Faces of Ground Zero, the Katrina photographs of Dan Burkholder also fall into this emerging "genre" as well.

I don't get it.

How does photographing first-responders, survivors, and victims families with a commercially-slick Cosmopolitan-Covergirl/Bloomingdale-Fashion-Catalog technique create a "tribute"? A tribute to what - the photographic capability to turn everything into commercialized/commodified icons of a consumer culture?

How does manipulating photographs of a natural disaster and the resulting personal tragedies into cartoon illustrations serve any purpose other than artistic technique for artistic technique's sake?

Help me here - what am I missing?

If it is suppose to be the notion of "horrific" beauty, I think that both of these photographers might better spend some time with the disaster/tragedy photographs of Joel Meyerowitz (Aftermath) and Katherine Wolkoff (After The Storm). Both of these photographers have taken a more honest, more respectful, and, much more self-effacing photographic approaches to the disconcerting idea of horrific beauty.

FEATURED COMMENT: Paul Ralpaelson wrote: "When it comes to selling bars, trucks or even politicians, you can wave the flag or you can drape one over a coffin. You can’t do both." His link to a related read.

FEATURED COMMENT #2: Michelle Parent wrote: "I don't get why he had them all in that sterile white space! It isolates them from the tragedy in more than a visual sense. You can't connect these people in these photos with the words next to them. It is as if he took a bunch of actors and put them in costume and makeup, stuck them under lights, etc. They don't seem "real". I hate it!"

4 Comments:

Blogger paulraphael said...

in related rants ...

"When it comes to selling bars, trucks or even politicians, you can wave the flag or you can drape one over a coffin. You can’t do both."

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/30/business/media/30carr.html

10/31/2006 08:25:00 PM  
Anonymous photopop 7.0 said...

I think that just like beanie babies, tickle-me-elmo's, and christmas, to name a few recently commercialized fads, someone has realized that firemen and the red, white and blue are hot items since 9/11. Look at the increase in these types of bumper stickers, t-shirts, pop country songs, etc. since then.

It's unfortunate that all the fads of recent years have been so lame (especially this one), but hey, so was disco and 80's music.

If Joe McNally has "immortalized 300 rescue workers and survivors" with his photography, then can you say that title sponsor Morgan Stanley has been blessed to honor them with this title.

11/01/2006 12:54:00 AM  
Anonymous mary dennis said...

Do you ever feel such deep-down guttural repulsion that you just don't know if there's any hope for this species? Do you ever feel like it would be better to curl up in a fetal position and sleep into eternity? I can hardly bear to watch sometimes.

That Chevy commercial damn near ruined the World Series for me and these sterile images of Joe McNally give me the shakes.

11/01/2006 02:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Michelle Parent said...

I don't get why he had them all in that sterile white space! It isolates them from the tragedy in more than a visual sense. You can't connect these people in these photos with the words next to them. It is as if he took a bunch of actors and put them in costume and makeup, stuck them under lights, etc. They don't seem "real". I hate it! ( I know, really strong word here). It is so distant from the grit and dirt and blood. It is as if he is trying to insulate us further from the "truth" with his "pretty" pictures of these people and what they went through. He does have some with dirt on them, but they don't even leave a trace on his sterile white floor. UGH. It feels like he cut them out of the whole thing and propped them up like dolls.

11/01/2006 02:43:00 PM  

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