19 July 2006

Disease as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

James Nachtwey has produced a photo-essay "The Congo's Hidden Killers" for Time that depicts the efforts of Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders to mitigate the health crisis caused by protracted war in the Congo. As always, Nachtwey's images are powerful because of the balance he strikes between capturing intimacy and maintaining respect for his subjects. Something he says in the audio track that accompanies the pictures struck me, namely that all sides in the war have participated in a form of primitive biological warfare, using disease as a weapon of mass desstruction. By destroying people's homes and livelihood they have driven them into a world in which illness and infection take an incredibly high toll. In addition, he calls attention to the use of rape as a means of terrorizing local populations.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment is not really related to this post. But I wondered if you have been following, and what your thoughts might be, on the debate over the photograph of israeli children writing messages on shells bound for Lebanon. The debate is outlined in the Guardian
http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/archives/2006/07/20/an_explosive_image_in_lebanon_conflict.html

20 July, 2006 20:00  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

I had not seen the eimages nor read the "dialogue" in the Guardian. I think the images of children being allowed? encouraged? to act like that are horrifying.

Thanks for the link!

20 July, 2006 21:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rape as concious means of terrorizing populations is a debateable concept. The fact that rape is a common denominator, in all wars, makes me think that there is, perhaps, some psychological, erotic intoxication soldiers feel when they sieze a town, and have absolute control of the women, and are in a position to do anything they want. Of course, I'm just speculating.

By the way, I don't know how you-Jim Johnson-feel about the aesthetics of the photo-essay, but to me the images are not reflective of Nachtwey's high level of artistry.

23 July, 2006 11:06  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Well, there are those - Catherine MacKinnon, for instance - who would argue that rape is a weapon of terror, widely used and a violation of internaitonal law. Even the mainstream media also has been claimed that in many war zones rape is used in such ways.

I - Jim Johnson - think the variation in these images is pretty high. I take it that this is because Nachtwey is actually making something of an advertissement for MSF. On the positive end, I find the image of the grieving mother (#15) and the one of the sick woman in the sea of bed nets (#19) both especially powerful. The first is simply heartrending, there is not much else to say. The second, I thnk, allows the subject her "privacy" but at the same time gives a senses of the sccope fo the problem MSF confronts in terms of numbers of ill patients.

23 July, 2006 17:09  

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