Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/06/27

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Subject: [Leica] Photo Impact
From: Robert Appleby and Sue Darlow <>
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2000 23:53:38 +0200

Hi Rob,
I agree that photos and video images are so common they have less impact
individually. I suspect that images are in some ways replacing language as a
medium of communication, especially between cultures. Individual photos like
individual words now have less meaning because they are so common.
Collectively, however, images are how we are beginning to speak to each
other articulately without needing to learn many languages. Nachtwey's
impact and the impact of other prominent image makers may be primarily to
refine the "language" and shape the nature of the dialog with respect to the
subject matter of their photos.

Those of us who take images and look at them are learning the language, and
learning to use the language of images -- becoming intelligent communicators
in what may become the most prominent lingua franca of our time.

Gib - That would be good news for anyone trying to make a living with
images. It's my feeling, though, that while pictures are terrific conveyors
of atmosphere, so to speak, they're not very good on information. They
really only show you how things look. Plus, there are strong limitations to
what they can show.
Example: a month or so ago I was commissioned to shoot a story about
prostitution here in Modena. The story was quite complex, about trafficking
in underage girls and the international structures that support the trade.
But how do you photograph this? It's just not possible. At most you can
photograph a few pimps, some girls, clients trawling past, etc. Even that
is close to impossible - or was in this particular situation. But my point
is, the pictures cannot tell the story. They can only illustrate it.
Since so much of the oppression operating in the world is structural, that
is, embedded in the structures of everyday life, and doesn't focus into
significant moments which can be photographed, I think photography's
potential for being a language even for dealing with this range of subjects
is pretty limited.
I do love photography and believe in its potential for telling stories, but
I'm more and more aware of its limitations. I think still photography can
potentially produce images which literally hammer into your retina so you
can't look away or forget them. That's its strength. But words/video are
essential complements to deliver the "whole" story.
Oh well, it's late and I'm going on again!
Robert Appleby and Sue Darlow
Via Bellentani 36
41100 Modena
Tel/fax [39] 059 303436