Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Important Role of Photojournalists

I saw a captivating photograph in the newspaper today.

It was an image that led me to reflect upon the political condition of our world. As I loosely flipped through the pages of the local paper, my eyes became struck by a photograph I found appealing in technical artistry. It captured my attention long enough to pause and read the caption above it--"Palestinians Protest Israeli Barrier."

The photograph itself lures the viewer to gaze upon a sprawling green-leafed olive tree encircled by clouds of tear gas. The gas clouds frame the subject of four Palestinian protesters gasping for air as they aide one another under the cover of the tree. The viewer's eye is then drawn to the photo's top right corner where a hint of blue sky laced with delicate cloud-strands pierces through, a sign of possible hope and optimism amidst trying circumstances.

In symbolic and literal ways, the image of the men, the trees, the tear gas and blue skies captures the tension between pain and peace, struggle and freedom, and desperation and hope that plague and mark our human condition. These tensions are at once inescapable, at times harrowing, and yet ever beautiful.

In my musings for today I was reminded of the important role that photojournalists play in our society. Photojournalists capture life as it happens. Their role is to present slices of life just as it is--in it's raw, uncensored, and unfiltered state. It is no secret that global turbulence, war, and mass destruction abound right outside our nation's home front. Today's photo (Kevin Frayer, Associated Press) reflects the reality of this condition while beautifully capturing the heart of the human spirit and its desire for peace and justice, and the determination to remain resilient amidst national and political obstacles and barriers.

Photographs are more than secondary sources of information--a tool to accentuate a written story or a marketing device to sell a particular magazine or newspaper edition. In today's visually oriented culture, photographic images are the story. As the authors of these stories, photojournalists play a vital role in bringing global realities into the spaces of our personal lives and homes (this is particularly true in first world nations, and especially among a generation that gathers news media from the internet, cell phones, print media, and other alternative sources). If it's true that a photograph speaks a thousand words, then it is the person behind the photograph whom we need to thank for providing us the medium and space in which to speak, and a place to listen to its impressing sounds.

[Today's musing is dedicated to photojournalists across the world who risk their lives to provide us a window in which to see the world...The world at both its best and worst.]

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