Every Picture Tells a Story….


Robert Capa brought home the truth of the Spanish Civil War…

We live in a world of images.

The intense power of images to convey both emotion and truth have been all around us since Matthew Brady captured both the reality of the Civil War and Lincoln some 150 years ago. The world of painting is filled with the romantic iconography of ‘war’; Napoleon on the battlefield.

The truth of combat is far uglier.

There are now more than 180,000 US troops in Iraq.

It’s a good bet that a fair number of them are carrying video cameras; some into battle.

A search on Youtube for Iraq + army gives more than 60,000 hits. Iraq + soldier gives more than 40,000. And that is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Look at the images.

They are a real, honest and gritty look at what life in Iraq is really like. This is not the work of ’embedded’ network correspondents, flown in, pampered, directed, protected and flown out.

This is real.

And it is incredibly disturbing to look at.

The video is raggedy. The people who have shot it and in many cases cut it have no formal training. But their access and the honest truth is speaks far outweigh the technical flaws.

Yet none of this.. none of it, has ever appeared on network or cable news.

Why is that?

Why is it that we can nightly see Laura Logan doing stand ups in the highly protected Green Zone, (and at enormous cost), when the real video of what is really going on is buried in Youtube or God only knows where else.

And this is just from the Americans.

There must be another hundred thousand Iraqis with video cameras documenting what is happening to their country.

This is just the very beginning of the video tidal wave that is about to engulf us.

But it is not as though some are not prepared for this.

This, from Lostremote:

A recent rule for embedded journalists in Iraq bans any video or photographs that show dead soldiers, and wounded troops must sign a consent form before their images can be broadcast or published. “They are not letting us cover the reality of war,” said Ashley Gilbertson, a freelance photographer for NY Times and Newsweek, among others. “I think this has got little to do with the families or the soldiers and everything to do with politics.” Meanwhile, Iraqi police are beginning to confiscate cameras on sight.

People are beginning to empower themselves in video. In time, they will pick up the necessary skills to make themselves ‘video literate’, (just as peasants in Medieval Europe taught themselves to read and write after Gutenberg).

What they will have to say will no doubt be very disturbing…

and it should be.

Despite the vast array of television, cable, newspapers, radio and web, the truth is that we have all been living in a kind of ‘information desert’ until now.

But not for much longer…..


3 responses to “Every Picture Tells a Story….

  1. In 2004, a documentary called “Voices of Iraq” came out. Here’s the Netflix Blurb on it:

    “The makers of this documentary handed out more than 150 video cameras to Iraqi citizens — mothers, children, sheiks, insurgents and many others — and asked them to voice their perspectives on war, terror and reform. The result is a unique tableau documenting Iraqis’ lives and hopes as they struggle with years of turmoil and strive to build a civil society. Some of the footage, which depicts many casualties, is startlingly graphic.”

    I remember that when this movie came out, there was nothing like it. I watched the movie in November 2004 – before YouTube’s launch in February 2005. At the time, the media was in a cycle of portraying the soldiers in an unkind light, and this film shows a different reality.

    Additionally, the film showed what life was like in Southern Iraq where the suffering brought on by Saddam had been indirect genocide. If memory serves it showed a similar perspective of Kurdish Iraq.

    This was a totally different reality than the one on Fox or CNN (I was watching both). This film is an amazing snapshot of that period of Iraq, and I couldn’t recommend it more.

    Here’s a review by a netflix customer that gave the movie 4 stars: “While clearly edited with a pro-occupation slant, it is refreshing and eye-opening to see a different perspective (the intimate and hopeful) from that which we see regularly on television (the impersonal and sensational). Iraq, being the large, diverse country it is, has a complex population and a wide spectrum of viewpoints. As a voter who opposed the rationale for the war and its timing, I’m glad this is in the conversation about Iraq.”

    And here’s one by a viewer who gave it 1: “This video was edited by Voices of Freedom, a right wing propaganda organizations. The film was very obviously edited to put American in its best light. Nevertheless, I found some of the footage interesting, but at no time did I feel the film accurately depicted the opinions of the majority of Iraqis.”

    My only editorial is that it was shot by the Iraquis themselves and is worth your 90 minutes.


  2. Michael Said: “Why is it that we can nightly see Laura Logan doing stand ups in the highly protected Green Zone, (and at enormous cost), when the real video of what is really going on is buried in Youtube or God only knows where else.”

    I think you already answered your own question – it’s about the highly stylized hair and teeth talent with their professional crews just playing it safe. We can’t have shooters making a living outside of the confines of the established safe, non-creative way of doing things can we now??? (Sarcasm mine)

  3. Pingback: Spalpeen :: Nick Davies on churnalism: objectivity, balance and bad journalism

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