Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 19, 2009

Impenetrability

afghan_ferguson.jpg

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with Loret Steinberg, R.I.T. professor of photojournalism and an adviser to the site, about the slideshow as an under-appreciated visual form existing between the single still-image and more full-blown multimedia.

The image above is drawn from a TIME slide show of Adam Ferguson’s photos, and does a convincing job of capturing — almost exclusively through sequential, visual storytelling — the almost futile task of American troops having any substantial impact in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The show transitions from an awkward, inconclusive meeting with local tribal leaders to patrolling, coordinating, firing, waiting, sleeping, eating, and patrolling again. Much of the story is told through the lighting, the facial expressions, even the camera jitter and, if the result of the show is a flat and meandering sense and a feeling of murkiness, that’s clearly the point.

(It’s too bad, by the way, TIME’s software is so unfriendly, at least with my browser. It doesn’t allow you to page back at the end, and doesn’t transition from frame-to-frame without awkwardly refreshing the whole page.)

The image above, is the third in the set. The caption reads:

A Bravo Company soldier provides security wA Bravo Company soldier provides security while members of his unit interview residents of Loi Kolay, another village in the valley. A Bravo Company soldier provides security while members of his unit interview residents of Loi Kolay, another village in the valley while members of his unit interview residents of Loi Kolay, another village in the valley.

The building seems like the perfect metaphor. It’s like a jungle itself, a house-of-cards, a haunted house, and also an echo of Vietnam, maybe. Of course, the soldier’s expression and his looking back-and-away is an invitation to appreciate any number of variations on impenetrability.

(image: Adam Ferguson for TIME. Accompanying story: The U.S. in Afghanistan: The Longest War)

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