04 June 2008

Photo Clichés

Don't get me wrong. I generally like The Guardian. But it has its flaws. And the flaw I want to note here is one it shares with lots of other newspapers. Like other daily newspapers The Guardian runs a section (the name varies from outlet to outlet) called "24 Hours in Pictures: A Selection of the Best Images from Around the World." You can find the feature here. Usually I wait several days to a week or so before scanning the selected images. Each of the images here appeared in The Guardian "24 Hours ..." feature in between May 26 and June 3. The captions came with the images.

I do not know who does the selecting. But the photo editors at the newspaper and the photographers (regardless of nationality or agency) who are feeding them images seem to converge way too much. As a result, what emerges are pretty clichéd patterns, regularized variations on a theme. Lines of helmeted police, resembling Storm Troopers from Star Wars, clashing with demonstrators always is a favorite. So to are exotic people engaged in exotic practices of this or that sort. This week we had a theme of fish at one or another stage of being harvested. And we had food frolics of various celebratory sorts. But we also had these three themes as well.


Cliché #1: Antiquities Dashed to the Floor

3 June ~ Sichuan province, China: The head of a statue
of Buddha lies among the ruins of the destroyed Erwang
Temple, also known as the Temple of Two Kings, in
earthquake-hit Dujiangyan. The temple, which is on the
UN's world heritage list, was built 2,000 years ago
Photograph © Jason Lee/Reuters.

27 May ~ Sichuan province, China: Some of the 108
wooden carvings of China's emperors are seen broken
on the floor of the Fuxing Buddhist temple after the
. Photograph © Nir Elias/Reuters.

Cliché #2: The Hands of the Oppressed

3 June ~ Johannesburg, South Africa: Refugees from
xenophobic violence sit on a bus as they wait to leave
Germiston City Hall for a newly constructed camp.
After living in temporary shelters in police stations
and community halls for nearly three weeks, the
displaced foreigners are now being moved to temporary
shelters, with tents supplied by the United Nations.
Photograph © Jon Hrusa/EPA.

2 June ~ Johannesburg, South Africa: A Congolese national
displaced by the recent xenophobic attacks shows his
identification bracelet
. Photograph © Gianluigi Guercia/
AFP/Getty Images

28 May ~ Johannesburg, South Africa: Immigrants
displaced by violence against foreigners warm their
hands over small fire outside a police station
Photograph © Mike Hutchings/Reuters.

Cliché #3: Boys Throwing Stones

2 June ~ Modin, West Bank: Palestinian youths clash
with Israeli troops during a protest against Israel's
security barrier
. Photograph © Sebastian Scheiner/AP.

28 May ~ Nilin, West Bank: A Palestinian boy hurls a
stone at Israeli soldiers during a demonstration.

Photograph © Abbas Momani/AFP.

26 May ~ West Bank, Palestinian territories: Palestinian
demonstrators hurl stones at Israeli border police during
a protest against Israel's separation barrier in Nilin, near
Photograph © Muhammed Muheisen/AP.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

They should stop trying to destroy Israel and murder Israelis. It hasn't woorked after 50 years of trying and it never will, and security barriers will remain so long as they are too stupid to reconsider their hatred.

04 June, 2008 08:16  
Blogger Sarah K said...

This is the challenge I've been paying more attention to. Recently, some fellow photography students went to New Orleans, and I was appalled by the cliches of tragedy produced. So appalled that I wrote a piece for the school magazine (on my blog as well). The faculty didn't seem to think it was their job to challenge the students (they admitted as much)but they thanked me for doing my job as a fellow student after I wrote the piece. I had to filter this piece so much just to accommodate political correctness. Frustrating.

04 June, 2008 14:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget photos of Arab women, sprawled out on the floor, screaming and crying hysterically.

04 June, 2008 15:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

quit whinging about israel etc. if women cry they cry for a reason---personal loss etc. while i grant that the media often deal in stereotypes and cliches, why ugnore the more mundain realities. if you cant handle reality then please continue serving up cliched analysis.

05 June, 2008 15:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one denies "they cry for a reason". That is not the point. The point is photography is a process of editing, decisions and selection and it is skewed towards protraying the Palestinians as victims - whereas in fact they povoke the aggression of Israel and have done for over 50 years.

16 June, 2008 13:40  

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