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Powerful photo documentary of pollution in China
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:17 pm    Post subject: Powerful photo documentary of pollution in China Reply with quote

W. Eugene Smith 2009 Grant in Humanistic Photography to Lu Guang for his powerful work covering pollution in today's China.

http://www.smithfund.org/winners

http://www.chinahush.com/2009/10/21/amazing-pictures-pollution-in-china/

Words escape me.


PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For whatever reason I never really liked W. Eugene Smith - though his series on mercury poisoning and the like in Japan is powerful, influential, and resulted in real world change.

I hope this series does the same, and I like Lu Guang's photography a whole lot better.


PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a dreadful indictment of the nature of industrialisation there. But it also sets off little alarm bells in my head, I suspect some of it is staged and it also looks as if the processing of the images had been done to achieve maximum grimness. I wonder if there is any country that couldn't be made to look like this, with a bit of effort on the photographer's part.

For example, why does the village girl wash in the part of the pool where all the rubbish has accumulated instead of in the clearer water behind her? It seems a strange choice.

So is this photojournalism, providing an insight into daily reality, or is it environmental activism with the photos staged to fit a pre-determined agenda?


PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Staged, definitely: all photography is staged: When I shoot travel photos for magazines I choose what from daily reality I portray.

Postprocessing, absolutely: treatment to emphasize the scene, but don't we all? Look at sunset photos, flower photos, color treatment... anything. With a landscape like this, I don't think however he had to do a lot of pp, that looks awful already without any overdone treatment.

Almost any country in SE Asia is full of contrasts between paradise and slum. I think the photographer did a great job in portraying the lack of appreciation for the value of a clean environment or decent life. I have seen pristine landscape photos of China on this forum, and I think both photo series perform their task very well.

Robert Capa's WWII life also was filled with gambling, whisky and beautiful ladies - yet he is not famous for pin-up photos.


PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, you are right, of course. But somewhere there is a line between revealing an awful truth and creating a lie. The former is useful, the latter can be destructive. When you start posing people and arranging elements within the photo you cross the line between journalism and art and you cease to be a credible commentator. That's why the Beirut photographer who posed his Hamas guide as a corpse in the ruins during the last war there got sacked.

There's a difference between travel photography, which is really a form of advertising and is understood as such, and photojournalism, which I think this purports to be. By altering realities I think the photographer undermines the case he is trying to make.

I used to be a newspaper editor, by the way, which is why this sort of stuff bothers me.


PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I whole-heartedly agree: If he has staged these settings and arranged elements for the photos then he ruins the opportunity he had. I sure hope this isn't the case:

Quote:
By altering realities I think the photographer undermines the case he is trying to make.


PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We'll probably never know for sure but my old news nose tells me something is fishy with some of them. I wouldn't have accepted it as a series if we had used that sort of thing (which wasn't our scene).

Most people who see them will just take it to be as it seems, of course. Maybe they will be right.