Saturday, October 2, 2010

he's the best in the world at listing things

Looks like I'll be part of the next issue of The Light Ekphrastic, which pairs writers and visual artists for the betterment of everyone involved. Good times. Karen Steele will be creating a new piece of visual art based on a short story of mine called "The Experiment," and I will write a new piece based on something of hers. I think I've got one picked out, so we'll see how that goes. Good times.

Now then, here's a cross-posting from my Comm. Design class wiki about a presentation on historical photo fakery by Dr. Nicole Hudgins:


Dr. Nicole Hudgins' lecture on photography was, on the whole, rather illuminating. I didn't know photography was such a point of contention within the historical community (although I should have assumed, because everything else is), so the squabbles over why and how certain photographs were staged, or straight up faked, interested me. Her grounding in different methods of photography was very solid as well, and added to the discussion - subjects were chosen by the available technology as much as the photographer, it seems.

Her main point was that photography can be an agent of state control, using the parallel development of visual propaganda and the camera as a guide peg, and that the assumption of cameras plainly documenting the truth without embellishment is often just that. The latter statement led to the most interesting part of the evening: the discussion of whether objective journalism is possible, or even necessary, and the underlying question of whether or not objective truth really exists. Many philosophers smarter than me have died on this hill, so I'll stick to offering my opinion on objective journalism.

Dr. Hudgins posed the question of whether or not it's possible, and to be honest, it really isn't. Plain, unvarnished truth is an ideal, much like equality and justice and world peace, and the parameters of the human mind limit us to, at best, an asymptotic relationship with objectivity. Plus, it's really hard (and maybe beside the point) to be objective about things like Vietnam, or Iraq, or health care, or corporate scandal.

Unfortunately, the resignation that journalism can't be truly objective is one cause for the media downshifting into punditry, in which opinion is presented as news with no real framework for fact-checking or correction. People like to blame it on blogging and the Internet's sudden wide distribution of information, but it had been happening long before either of those took off, and if people read the news based on whether or not they agree with it, it's because television had already set that standard.

All this leaves photojournalists in a tough position - how do they capture something that may not even exist? My opinion, which took a few days to congeal in my brain, is that they should try as hard as they can to be accurate and factual, allowing for their individual biases. Whether or not they reach The Truth is almost irrelevant; it's one of those Greek ideals that, while ultimately unattainable, is worth trying for because the pursuit betters us all.

Or, failing that, go into satire. The Onion has some of the best journalistic writers in the field, and their photo fakery improves with every issue.

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