John Edwin Mason teaches African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia. He has a great article here. In light of watching The True Meaning of Pictures last week and Elizabeth Barret’s film Stranger With a Camera, we get a sense of the complex issues arising from documenting Appalachia.
Mason – “Cameras don’t kill. But they can do a lot of damage in other ways. The images that photographers make “may presume, intrude, trespass, distort, exploit, and, at the farthest reaches of metaphor, assassinate,” to quote one of Susan Sontag’s best known rhetorical flourishes. “Assassinate” is admittedly over the top, but her main point is valid. Photos can hurt. Photos can do damage. That’s especially true when the power relationship between filmmakers and photographers and their subjects is wildly unbalanced, as it usually is when documentarians investigate the lives of the poor and oppressed.”
What do you think?