A few days ago azrocketman (Tim) posted a link to some rather scary photos taken by a conflict photographer/correspondent from the Global Post named Tracy Shelton (link reposted here). The images show a group of Syrian opposition forces involved in the conflict there being bombed by shells from a government forces tank that was advancing on them. Some pretty chance timing of the photos shows the moments immediately preceding and during a shell impacting the group of men. Intense stuff.
This got me thinking once again about the importance of conflict photography versus the personal motivations of photographers who are involved in this genre of reporting. I sometimes try to put myself in their position and imagine what must motivate them to want to document the very lowest form of human contact. Is it a personal quest for the media spotlight or are the motivations purely aimed at exposing the evils of war?
If it’s a case of the latter, will photos like those taken by Tracy Shelton in Syria do anything to bring about the end of the conflict there? What purpose do they really serve if not for that? Should we be praising photographers for showing us these horrors?
Conflict photography has been around for as long as the camera has, yet in spite of all the exposures we have seen of mankind’s lowest moments over the last century, nothing visual seems to be strong enough to impact the willingness we as a species have to simply obliterate group after group of people from the face of the earth in our senseless wars.
I question therefore whether this type of photography is relevant to the advancement of mankind or is it simply just a case of photographers and filmmakers hoping to exploit these moments for their own gain?
I love news imagery, but my thinking these days is that images of the type taken by Tracy Shelton have a strong cynical flavour to them.
What’s your opinion?