NO CAPTION NEEDED
ICONIC PHOTOGRAPHS, PUBLIC CULTURE, AND LIBERAL DEMOCRACY

No Caption Needed is a book and a blog, each dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society. No caption needed, but many are provided. . . .

November 30th, 2012

Call For Papers: The Asch Drone Project

The Solomon Asch Center is starting a web project on drones–how they function in the present and what they may become in the future. This project aims to explore the politics of government use of drones for surveillance and interdiction, private and corporate use of drones; privacy and due process issues raised by use of drones, fifth generation warfare using drones, and any issue relating to how the technology used in drones will play out in the future.  The Asch Drone Project seeks contributions from scientists, engineers, social scientists, lawyers, artists, journalists and citizens to provide a multi-faceted online presentation incorporating text essays and visuals relating to drones.  An online gallery will display Afghan folk art, fine art, cartoon, and photographic representations of drones.  The Project is open to all types of interpretations and opinions, and to any length text from a paragraph to a multipage essay.  If you have visuals or links to existing blogs to suggest, or if you are able to write something for the project, please get in touch with Asch Associate Director for Conflict and Visual Culture Initiatives Jonathan Hyman at jhyman@brynmawr.edu and identify your inquiry or submission in the subject  field as such: attention Asch Drone Project.

The Asch Drone Project expects to open on the Asch web site (www.aschcenter.org) no later than 1 January 2013.  If enough good essays are contributed, authors may be invited to participate in a Special Issue of the journal Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict (www.informaworld.com/dac), edited by Asch Co-Director Clark McCauley.

For a decade the Solomon Asch Center for the Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, now located at Bryn Mawr College, has brought together social scientists from many disciplines-history, political science, psychology, linguistics, economics, law, sociology and anthropology — to analyze the underlying causes of conflict, how conflict can be managed constructively to avoid widespread violence, and how to ameliorate the refugee problems that flow from intergroup violence. 

Credit: File Photo

November 29th, 2012

Under The Weather (#4)

Posted by Lucaites in catastrophe, no caption needed

We had hoped to be back this week, but too many travels and the seasonal flu have us under the weather and so we will take another week off.  We will be back on December 3.  But in the meantime we hope to offer pictures of the planet, which is also under the weather.  We trust that no captions will be needed, but of course we invite and encourage your comments.

Photo Credit: Bitterroot National Forest, Montana, John McColgan/USDA

November 28th, 2012

Under the Weather (#3)

Posted by Lucaites in catastrophe, no caption needed

We had hoped to be back this week, but too many travels and the seasonal flu have us under the weather and so we will take another week off.  We will be back on December 3.  But in the meantime we hope to offer pictures of the planet, which is also under the weather.  We trust that no captions will be needed, but of course we invite and encourage your comments.

Photo Credit: Argentina’s Upsala Glacier, Top Photo – Unknown, Bottom Photo – Gary Braasch

Photo Credit: David Brashears, West Rongbuk Glacier and Mt. Everest, 1909 v. 2009.  See also here.

November 27th, 2012

Under The Weather (#2)

Posted by Lucaites in catastrophe, no caption needed

We had hoped to be back this week, but too many travels and the seasonal flu have us under the weather and so we will take another week off.  We will be back on December 3.  But in the meantime we hope to offer pictures of the planet, which is also under the weather.  We trust that no captions will be needed, but of course we invite and encourage your comments.

Credit: Ethiopia, Oxfam International

November 26th, 2012

Under the Weather (#1)

Posted by Lucaites in catastrophe, no caption needed

We had hoped to be back this week, but too many travels and the seasonal flu have us under the weather and so we will take another week off.  We will be back on December 3.  But in the meantime we hope to offer pictures of the planet, which is also under the weather.  We trust that no captions will be needed, but of course we invite and encourage your comments.

Photo Credit: Greenland Glaciers, Slim Allagui/AFP/Getty Images

 

November 14th, 2012

Movin’ Right Along

Posted by Lucaites in no caption needed

 

Your NCN guys are “moving right along” as we head to our national professional organization meetings and then take off some time to be with family for Thanksgiving.  But we will be back to close out the year on November 26.  And for a special treat click here or on the photo above.

November 12th, 2012

Honoring Our Vets

Posted by Lucaites in sight gags

Credit: Plante, Tulsa World

While the unemployment rate for all people in the United States has edged itself below 8%, the rate for Veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars hovers between 10-11%.  For veterans of Gulf War II it is closer to 29%.  And of course this number does not take account of the underemployed or those who have simply stopped looking for work and are homeless (conservatively estimated to be around 67,000 veterans).  Surely we can do better than this.

November 11th, 2012

Sight Gag: Damn the Facts, Full Speed Ahead

Posted by Lucaites in sight gags

Credit:  Mike Luckovich

 Sight Gag is our weekly nod to the ironic, satiric, parodic, and carnivalesque performances that are an important part of a vibrant democratic public culture.  These “gags” may not always be funny or represent a familiar point of view, but they attempt to cut through the lies, hypocrisy, shamelessness, stupidity, complacency, and other vices of democratic life.  Of course, we invite you to comment … and to send us images that you think might deserve a laugh or at least a wry and rueful look by those who are thinking about the character of public life today.

November 9th, 2012

Down and Out in Romneyville: But How Should We Feel About That?

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

Here’s the question: Is a compassionate response to this photograph justified, or would it be yet another extension of perhaps unmerited privilege?

The photo was taken at the Romney election night rally in Boston, but there are many like it to be seen in the papers this week, whether from Boston, Las Vegas, or other sites around the country.  The style in which wealth is worn may vary a bit, but the basic profile is the same: affluent supporters of a certain age appear downcast, even mournful.  Women tend to be featured, but that is typical when emotions are being featured regarding public events.  The important constant is the affluence.  Indeed, as Dana Milbank’s fine report on election night at the Romney gathering in Boston makes clear, the final celebration was to be for the few and the very few.

Which is why I can’t help but wonder: why are they so sad?  These people clearly are society’s winners.  Frankly, they don’t just look well off–they look damn good.  I see attractive men and women who have had the benefit of good genes, money, education, connections, and everything else, and also had the discipline and other qualities to make good use of all those gifts.  They are going to do well no matter what.  Despite what Fox News might say, people of this class are not going to be beggared by Obama’s re-election, and they are likely to see their fortunes rise in the coming years due to the continuing economic recovery that was helped  and will continued to be helped by his policies.  Sure, they might have made more money and had more political influence had Romney won, but they will hardly have to do without.  They will continue to prosper and to be taken seriously in their own sphere, so what is the problem?

Of course, elections do make a difference, as Rachel Maddow has pointed out brilliantly.  But the progressive gains are not moves in a zero-sum game, and not not hurting people doesn’t mean that those who wouldn’t have been hurt now will be harmed.  And note also that the emotional tableau in the image does not include anger.  I can see how any player in American politics would be pissed about losing, but that’s not what we’re seeing here.  Furthermore, since the Democratic victory ensures a commitment to caring for those in need, it can’t be that a Romney loss would provoke anguish for the plight of those not doing well.  So, why would the rich grieve?

I can’t answer that question for want of experience or access to those who might know, although it does seem that one of the characteristics of American politics is that, for those involved, deep levels of personal identification are at stake.  If self-interest is buffered by wealth–that is, if you are going to be well off, win or lose–and you still grieve the defeat of your candidate, that would seem to prove the point.  Or one might claim that narcissism is the real cause, but while that might very well apply to Bill Reilly,  Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the like, I don’t think it holds here.  (Note how one person in each of the two couples is tending to the other; these people seem capable of seeing beyond themselves.)

And so it turns out that my ruminations thus far have been a bit of a set up.  I don’t know why they grieve, but it touches me that they do, and the pertinent question–for both the study of photography and the conduct of public life–is whether compassionate feeling for their pain is justified.  After all, these are people who would have been celebrating if Romney had won, and Romney’s program was sure to spread misery downward while transferring even more wealth upward.  And if the benefits of affluence help one feel for those in the picture–as one would be less likely to do if they were less attractive, for example–then isn’t that another systemic unfairness, another way in which those at the top get more than their share of whatever good thing is being distributed socially?  And given all the contempt and condescension and vicious moralizing that has been directed against those in the bottom half, isn’t it fair to turn the tables during victory week?  Well, yes and no.

The yes is because I’m among those who savors Gore Vidal’s great comment that “It is not enough to merely win.  Others must lose.”  Which is why, for example, I have loved seeing Karl Rove fall from political mastermind to $300,000,000 loser. Some people just have it coming, and the more they can make fools of themselves in public, the better.

But mostly no.  The beauty of photography is that it can evoke a compassionate response regardless of other biases.  Of course, sometimes those other considerations should prevail, but the problem is rarely that we are too quick to set them aside.  And even if unable to understand the opposing political party, it might help us all if one could at least recognize that they, too, care about their beliefs.  For where there is care, connection becomes possible.

Photograph by Jim Young/Reuters.

November 7th, 2012

America the Beautiful

Posted by Hariman in the visual public

The photo is from the Obama campaign election night party at McCormick Place, Chicago.  The 21st century is here, and the time has come to recognize how the country, for all its problems, is changing for the better.  Out of many, one.  Together, so that all can thrive.

Photograph by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

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