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|| News Item: Posted 2007-01-30

Preaching to the Choir: White and Black
By Paul Myers, Brooks Institute of Photography

Photo by Paul Myers

Photo by Paul Myers
White (lies)

The most insidious of all are the little ones. The ones that deal in the subtlest changes of meaning. The ones that skew a set of circumstances into a certain light. They never leave the realm of truth but instead violently transform it into a realm of opinion.

Again, these are the white ones.

In photojournalism this destruction of truth is most effectively accomplished when writing a caption and misrepresenting the life experience photographed through a subtle shifting of meaning.

Truth is dismissed because it is without drama. Pure in its complications, it is easily swayed for one's purpose or another.

The potential violence or joy of a particular image lies in the hermeneutics of the emotive knowledge of that image; specifically it resides in the ways the audience always already accesses images through the flow of their own life experiences (the ever-forming present-past-present-future-present of consciousness).

Images are ambivalent.

We greet images by ourselves, alone with our life experiences while standing in front of them on the wall or leafing through a publication. The meeting between a photograph and its audience is specific to the life of the audience as evident in the emotions that spring forth in the viewing moment.

Because the ambivalence of an image is lost in the viewing moment, images are often called violent. This misnomer arises because images are sometimes used as acts of violence, directed against people, cultures, sight, beauty, race, age, religion and most everything human or relating to humanity. However, they are violent because they are directed with discursive contextual support in spite of their inherent ambivalence.

Images do not speak for themselves; they are non-discursive so we provide them with a discursive context. Captions are the discursive context common in photojournalism appearing as the who, what, when, where, why and how of the situation. We write this information so that images might "make sense" and appear to answer questions. Rather, photographs are most effective as questions of answers.

Photo by Paul Myers

Photo by Paul Myers
There are no "good" images. There are no "violent" images. There are good and violent audiences totally transfixed and transformed by their immediate relation to the images with which they are faced. It is in these interactions we find the catalytic potential of an image. It is here that the sum of all these objects made symbols, the content of a photograph, and the experiential residues of our memory combine and enable themselves to overcome the limitations of themselves in a moment of total annihilation that is the implosion of everything already past and yet to come; and, that is in this moment unique, utopia.

Black (magic)

"Is this a problem or an opportunity?" a master taught hundreds of us each with this single lesson through the years.

And we are capable of all this with every single photographic exposure.

There is a place where I go when I take pictures. Leaving this world and the materials of my surroundings I enter another space where I am vulnerable in my way of seeing. The laughter and agony, the tortures and miracles of humanity are undeniable. Once there I look around and notice that there is no end to this universe. Life is.

I rejoice and photograph.

Every exposure is a hope, an active hope. Photographs are decisive statements in the form of light commenting on life and professing love.

Remember your best teacher?

What was it about that person? Why do they outshine the sun in your memories? In your actions, interactions, your hopes and dreams?

Every student needs a master: one does not exist without the other.

Without a master there is no light.

Without a master there are no photographs.

The master provides the canvas for the mind's eye.

The master's actions inspire the seeds of creation in hearts and minds so that in the student's actions the master's love blossoms.

Photo by Paul Myers

Photo by Paul Myers
Every action of the master is honed towards creation.

Compassion reigns.

And what is compassion but the ache in your guts wrenching you to the point that you are forced to act? This is what it means where it is written that he felt compassion for the people: he was forced to act because he saw and felt.

Compassion is a creative force that springs forth as an active hope.

An action, an interaction: a sharing.

Sharing is the miracle of miracles.

And with each exposure the photographer decides whether or not to create for humanity.

It is a simple truth.

At times it is a must need.

I must share with you what I see.

Is this a problem or an opportunity?

(Paul Myers is a faculty member of the Visual Journalism Program at Brooks Institute of Photography in Ventura, CA. Prior to his arrival at Brooks, Myers worked for a variety of publications including newspapers in Freeport, IL and Marysville, CA.)

Related Links:
Paul's member page
Paul's personal website

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