April 12, 2011

The South Will Rise Again. (Chortle, Knee Slap)

(click for full size)

Oh, my friends at TIME.

They have this beautiful new section called Lightbox where they deal with photographs in a big, beautiful and primarily serious and journalistic way. One issue with the section, however (as in current-day editorial photography, itself, I should add) is that there isn’t always a clear separation between “art photography” and “news-” or “editorial photography.”  It’s in that grey area that this TIME photo essay, Why They Fight: Civil War Re-enactors and the Battle over Historic Sites, highlighted by the photo, caption and heading above dealing with these re-enactors on the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, is seriously challenged (and working over-time) for context.

To the extent TIME, and this new photo section, concerns itself primarily with news photos and photojournalism, a photographer actually enabling these right-wing, militia-wannabes by recreating battle scenes with them strikes an awkward note, indeed. And then, given that this photographer’s extended project deals not just with fanciers of the confederacy  and their war games, but with urban development and what now physically exists on civil war battlegrounds, this kind of quick look — which TIME says itself is funny at first — can’t really transcend the bizarre juxtapositions in this news space. Unfortunately, the net result (similar to the way TIME has repeatedly made light of the murderous Gaddafi recently – 1, 2) is a form of mockery, serving to bury the mania and the anger driving many sons of the confederacy into the shadows of The Comfort Suites or Target.

Finally, the ambiguity over whether to take these photos seriously or not, or what to make of them at all, doesn’t minimize the fact that these people, with their States Rights/Tea Party and also segregationist tendencies, are being rewarded with major attention at the same time their retrograde instincts are in active in battle today … against the concrete and marble of Washington.

(photo: Gregg Segal)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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