November 23, 2014

Mexico's Rage Also Elevates the Camera

(click for larger sizes)

Slate touts this 15 photo slideshow as a gripping window into Mexico’s “Days of Rage.” No doubt. What’s also noteworthy, however, is the presence, but even more so, the role and the prominence of the camera across a good many of these shots. (This is in spite of how we, as news consumers, are largely trained to disregard the camera, as if it had no more consequence than a hat or a pair of glasses.)  I don’t pretend to understand, in the various instances here, how the camera is being used. Is the security guy in the shot above, for example, using it for surveillance? for evidence? to put protesters on notice? The device looks, at least, like a tool to ward them off.

And what’s going on here? I get that the protester is identifying with the murdered student but the way the camera is hoisted suggests its own symbolism. By default, it’s as if the camera becomes the substitute for the protester’s real face, likes it’s his eye. You could also see it as the camera standing for a higher order, the vehicle to expose the truth — in this case, the gruesome fate of the disappeared.

Finally, if the camera’s role in the first two shots is somewhat ambiguous, this, we could say, is more “typical.” Here, photographers are documenting the Congress in the state of Guerrero set afire. Regardless how well their witnessing role is established, however, what’s still disconcerting is that the photographers/videographers seem to be the only ones there.

(If you click through the pictures in the slideshow, you will notice how ubiquitous the camera is in most of them.)

(photo 1 & 2: Edgard Garrido/Reuters caption 1: A member of security kneels on the ground trying to calm protesters outside the palace in the historic center of Mexico City on Nov. 8. caption 2: A demonstrator holds a picture of Julio César Mondragón, one of the missing Ayotzinapa students during a protest in Mexico City’s Zocalo Square on Nov. 8, 2014. photo 3: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images. caption: The main hall of the Guerrero state congress is set on fire by protesters in Chilpancingo, Mexico, on Nov. 12, 2014.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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