Exercise 3.3: ‘Late photography’


1. For the first part we have to read David Campany’s essay ‘Safety in Numbness’ summarise the main points and comment on them (comments on italics)

  • The essay start by informing us that Joel Meyerowitz was the exclusive photographer who took photos after the terror attack at the Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan. He covered what happened after the event and the c lean up process using a sixty year old camera. I did not know about that. It is interesting that a photographer got exclusive rights to photograph these places. What makes it more interesting is the type of camera he used. Cameras we connect in our minds to more historic events, as the photos of this era (60 or more years ago) we see were  taken by this type of cameras.
  • These images were not images of the event, but images of the trace of the trace of the event. I found really interesting how places look after the events happen. What people leave behind…their traces. This is not only related to an event organised by humans or the result of a terror attack or an accident, but also after the end of natural disaster (earthquake, tsunami, fire, flood etc)
  • In the “late photography”, remnants of an activity were captured. Empty roads and/ or buildings, dead bodies or what remains after removing them, damaged buildings etc. This absence of humans and the remains has a lot of storytelling on it. Makes me feel exited to capture what I see in front of my eyes. Maybe it is kind of easier also than when a tragedy happens. Both practically, as there are not so many people and photographers around and you have not the time pressure, and also emotionally as you already knew what happen and you have processed it mentally, compared to what just happening.
  • The photograph can be an aid to the memory. It also can be used in this way also in cinema and television. Maybe that is kind of in our genes. The first photographs were memoirs of events or things people want to remember. People keep doing that now with their smart phones. But I am guessing it was not the same keep the photo in box or a photo book and having them saved in a digital form. Being able to carry them, has a special value which we tend to forget.
  • Although the image can help us remember it can also have a negative effect, by not allowing us to think beyond the image. Thousands words can be said for the image. Again we tent to accept what we see in a photo as real, even though we are aware of the power of Photoshop. For example, when we see dead bodies we feel sad for them. But our first thought will not be why this happened, if they have been killed to protect others etc.
  • Images can be taken before, during or after an event. Whereas video shows us what is happening live. This article has been written in 2003. I think some of the concepts are not 100 % accurate, given the evolution of smart phone and the mobile phone internet access. It is really more complicated how an event can be covered. How easily an image and/ or a video can be taken and how easily it can be shared etc.
  • A good photojournalism photo in the 1960´s was considered a good caption of the moment; the photographer was there the right time in the right place. Today the images are more from the aftermath of the event, that during it. Online we can see images for example from Syria, before during and after the war. I think all the times are interesting, but what is more interesting, is the comparison before and after the disaster. Even images taken by satellite can be used with the same way. But maybe again this can raise similar discussions if these images considered photographs or they are part of the evolution of the technology and what is considered a photo.
  • The idea of still image starts existing after the no- still moving image used. As before everything was still. Sometimes, images are not taken by a camera, but they are a frame from a video. That is an interesting concept. We considered the image as something obvious. That the still image is something like a frame of a video or a video is a series of photo- frames. It is interesting to see that something we considered obvious, actually it is not.
  • The war of Vietnam was the last war were photographer were free to photograph anything they wanted. In the next wars they were controlled by army etc. In the next wars photographer can visit after the action. The photos are more poetic, elegiac and muted. I remembered hearing that by war photojournalists few years ago that anymore they are not free to take photos from wore zones. I do not know if the same photojournalists can take photos in the aftermath, but the photos taken in the aftermath have also elements of fine art.
  • Photography has to find new roles, given these changes. There is a muteness in some of the aftermath images that leave them open to interpretation. Photography as everything else has to evolve and adapt to the new reality. Sometimes if we read the story behind the photo we understand more about it, and that is useful. Some other times I just want to see the photo and feel whatever makes me feel without knowing everything about it.
  • Joel Meyerowitz did not have a formal idea of how to photograph the aftermath of the terror attach, however his experience make it a second nature to him to take a beautiful photo. I think I understand what he means. I am feeling the same most of the times I am taking a photo, I am not trying to do specific things. I am just following my instincts. In this course I learned about the concept of the appropriation. In this case we need to have a more formal idea of how to photograph, as if we do not follow  the pattern it will not work.
  • Sometimes, the images of the aftermath are a vehicle for mass mourning, but in these cases we should not forget the need for analysis and any social or political connection to the event photographed. In our days, as mentioned above, terror attacks are very frequent. Some of the photos are a vehicle of mourning and some are photos of the actual mourning and the memorial events for the victims. Some of these images are really powerful; expressing many feelings and makes us experience strong feelings. Sometimes, looking to them, our feelings might be stronger than our logic and we might forget how or why these images have been produced. Sometimes images can also increase the feeling for revenge, which is maybe not so good, as revenge is not the best feeling. But we cannot stay just observers in the events around us.

2. For the second part of this exercise we have to look at some of Meyerowitz’s images and consider how they look different from our own memories of the news footage of the time. Then we have to write a short response noting what value we feel this “late” approach has.

Actually, I still remember watching in the breaking news the first plane collide with the Twin Towers. It was not clear if it was an accident or not. Then few hours later it was. It was something socking and not as common as it is in our days. It was a historic event happening live in our lives.  In our days, we know that a terror attack will happen soon. The questions are how, where, how many people will die, if I am a victim or if somebody I love will be a victim.

First of all I want to make a quick internet search to find images that were similar to what I remember from the event.

The first interesting link


The images I remember are similar to the link above. Actually, I remember some these specific images. It is really interesting that some of the images are still from videos which are related to what we discussed in the first part of this exercise.

Another link with many socking images, again with some I remember https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/tag/911/

And finally


Then I looked for the Meyerowitz’s images.


Looking to the photos I felt sadder that I was expected. There is an interesting story on them. Also, they are not static images but there are full of action. Cleaning the mess of the attack and re create the new place. Nothing will be the same anymore. And the truth is that is not only in the place, but also in the way people think, not only locally in New York but in the entire world.

The photos give us the feeling that life is keep moving on, no matter what. They are messages of courage that people have to move on as they are still alive.  In photo 19, there is an interesting story telling, each of this objects has a story to tell.

Also in the photos we can see that somehow, people are more united under these conditions.  I think the “value” of this late approach has to do with the messages it pass. Photography is not only a mean to remember personal moments, but sometimes we also learn by viewing to photos. From this series of photos the messages that can be passed include: how much disaster people can cause to other people and on the contract what people can achieve when they are united.

It is mentioned that no photographers allowed there except Meyerowitz. I am glad that he was there. I am glad that I have seen these photos. And that is another value of them. That we are able to see moments, moments of historic importance for everybody. I understood that the authorities might limit the access to photographers for security reasons, but always it is important to record import events, during and after they happen.

Note: All links were accessed on 11-08-2016



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