May 23, 2014

Central African Gunman Loose in Paris … Fighting for Photography

After grinding on this about business models, the photo, above, and the article it came from at Lightbox, brought me back to what made me so excited about photojournalism in first place. It’s the activist enterprise.

Who knows where Pierre Terdjman is going with his underground project. His new method for publishing photos that he and his photojournalist colleagues have taken most recently, in Egypt, Ukraine and the Central African Republic, is to post them randomly and at large-scale around Paris to “bring the news to the people” and provoke response.

Of course, the photo we’re looking at is not just a document of the photos that Dysturb — Terdjman’s “fly-posting team with a news twist” — is pasting up. If that was the case, we’d just see a picture of a picture on a wall — something akin to this. Instead however, what this photo does is take Terdjman’s idealistic concept of bringing news imagery to the street (“the only social platform that’s bigger than Facebook”) and throws a whole different suggestion on top of it.

I’m completely curious who took this photo, at this specific spot and angle. I’m wondering whether it came from a colleague of Terdjman’s, or a member of his group, or whether it was independently assigned and someone thought this frame — because presumably there were others, some with the wall alone, but most likely with different passers-by — was clever or cute. If it was someone assigned and independent of Dysturb, let’s just say it doesn’t do justice to the group’ intention or, otherwise, cast the group in the most constructive light. Either it undermines Dysturb’s purpose by failing to disturb these young people at all, or it frames Dysturb as quite frustrated and angry with the public for being so aloof and disinterested in the face (or shadow) of the most serious conflicts of our times. (And you can throw in some ethnic and cultural exploitation, besides — like Paris isn’t already over-sensitized to the stereotype of the Muslim terrorist.)

If a Dysturb member took it, on the other hand, I’d call appropriately provocative and dysturbing. As photo-activists, how does it serve their aim? Simply, this is not a passive exercise. Dysturb aims to bring the news home, targeting those in their bubbles and shopping swoons with a visual fusillade.

(photo: Rafael Yagobzadeh)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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