Monday, June 23, 2008

The numbness of being a photographer

When I went to New Orleans last time, with the Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Work Project, I was thrown back by a comment a friend had said. We were driving back from a long hard day of work, and we were talking about the destruction we were seeing. He then remarked sort of off hand that he had seen some sort of a house that was completely destroyed and it made for a sick picture. After he said that, we sort of gave him a hard time, and he said well to be a good photographer, you have to be numb to the pain and just think about getting the story out.

At the time, I dismissed it and thought it was rude... But lately, while reading the book The Great Deluge, I've been thinking about it a lot. All of those photographers who went there to tell the true story had to have been numb. It is impossible to take the pictures I've seen without feeling sorrow or grief. I've begun to wonder if I can be tough enough to document these horrible things I may come across... but I think I've worked it out.

I read a story about Tony Zumbado. He is a so called "hurricane hunter" and traveled to New Orleans before the storm to document it's fury. Days after Katrina hit, he ventured into a Hospital to see if there were any survivors or dead. At first, this camera man walked through and saw bodies and videotaped them thinking of the story versus his feelings. Then he came to the church in the hospital, and there were bodies everywhere like someone had been giving them their last rites and the stench was overpowering and he lost it. I totally understand why, but it seemed out of his character.

I've come to the conclusion that as a photographer, I must have a thicker shell than the average joe. I must be able to document things for the good of the public, and not think so emotionally. With that said, of course there it will get to a point where the hard shell cracks... After all, I am only human...


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