24 September 2009

Envisioning Aggregates: The Faithful

"Great numbers, however, cause particular difficulties for
our imagination. As if we observe humanity in a way that
is not permitted for humans, and allowed only to gods. ...
In other words, they can think in categories of masses.
A million people more, a million less - what difference
does it make?" ~ Czeslaw Milosz

The National Mosque in Jakarta can hold 120,000 souls for Friday
prayers. Arab traders brought Islam to the region a thousand years
ago. Now 86 percent of Indonesia’s 240 million citizens are Muslim,
mostly Sunni. Photograph © 2009 James Nachtwey/National Geographic.

Politics is about numbers - often very large numbers. Politics, in many cases, also intersects with imagination, with our ability to envision possibilities. Hence the quote from Milosz, which I've used here several times before. Among the issues that perplex me is whether - and how - photographers might depict aggregates. This image, from "Indonesia: Facing Down the Fanatics" does just that.

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