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. . . .

August 18th, 2016

Killing, Seeing, and Being Seen

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

WALKER_160720_COD_19604x

Let’s get a few things straight: the fish is being tagged, not killed.  The fish is a fish, and I’m not, so I don’t know what it is seeing.  Because the fish is a cod, it will eat lots of other fish, including other cod, many of them while their hearts are still beating.  If you want sympathy, don’t expect to get it from the fish.

But does the fish nonetheless deserve sympathy–or compassion, or whatever you want to call an act of moral resonance?  And should the fact that we can see it seeing be the basis for that sympathy?  Reason would suggest otherwise, but I’m not sure I want to be so reasonable.  Not at the moment, anyway.  There is plenty of time to revert to the more utilitarian arguments for not destroying the wild fish populations, for keeping the ecosystem in balance, for sustaining resources for future generations. . . . But this photograph requires a different answer, because it is asking a different question.

That question is, why kill?  Why should we kill, or at least, why should we kill those species we can live without?  Of course we slaughter micro-organisms by the trillions, but that consideration is largely a distraction from where morality really lies: that is, where individual and collective decisions are possible.

This photograph is as good an argument for vegetarianism as I’ve seen in awhile.  First, it got to me, and that has to happen if deep cultural habits are to be changed.  Second, it got to me for reasons that are easily dismissed and yet somehow persistent.  The large eye evokes cross-species identification, as if the eye is window to the soul.  That’s a cliche, but hard to shake.  The large head, open mouth, and sagacious visage suggests a capacity for self-consciousness, even reflection; no matter that the suggestion comes from those 19th century drawings and Kitchy paintings of animals in suits or sitting around the poker table.  The gentle, supporting embrace of the technician evokes an ethic that channels every sentiment of parenting or of loving care for one’s pets–even though he holds neither child nor pet and his work is geared toward increasing the fishing quotas.

Why, we might ask, should such compromised emotional attachments prevail?  Why should this photo push me further away from eating meat?  Let me suggest that the deep structure of the image is doing important work on behalf of overcoming our moral blindness regarding other species.  The clue to what might be happening is provided by Kaja Silverman’s remarkable book, The Miracle of Analogy: The History of Photography, Part I.  Silverman suggests that photography’s genius lies not in providing direct reproductions of what is seen, but rather in disclosing the many similarities that constitute the world in its deepest sense.   Instead of thinking of reality as something prior to the image, we should consider how reality is “a vast constellation of analogies” (11) that can be brought to light through the image.

Analogies between fish and human beings, for example.  Similarities that are not so much thought as felt.  Patterns of continuity that become expressed by many and often odd means: cliches, cartoons, and comparisons with pets among them.

And if you think about that, it might become harder to kill.

Photograph by Craig F. Walker/Boston Globe.

August 10th, 2016

Citizens of Photography Research Positions

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

headshot

The Department of Anthropology at University College, London is seeking two MPhil/PhD candidates and two postdoctoral researchers to participate in an exciting project “Citizens of Photography: The Camera and the Political Imagination” co-ordinated by Professor Christopher Pinney. Participants will be required to conduct fieldwork in one of the following locations: Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Nicaragua. “Citizens of Photography” is an empirical anthropological investigation of the relationship between photographic self-representation and different societies’ understanding of what is politically possible. Prolonged ethnographic fieldwork will study how local communities use photography to represent individuals, families, and other identities and explore whether this plays a role in the manner in which people articulate their political hopes and demands.

Additional information is available here (for MPhil/PhD) and here (for postdoc).  Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Christopher Pinney at c.pinney@ucl.ac.uk for further details.

July 15th, 2016

Into the Twilight Zone in Nice

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

Again, yet again.  Another massacre in France.  This time with a truck.

Nice truck masscre

Next time perhaps with a boat or a bookstall or a suitcase. . . . As Elaine Scarry observed about torture, the use of everyday objects is designed to make all of reality terrifying, with nothing that can be trusted.  And something like that may be happening in the collective consciousness.  The politics of too many nations already is marked by too many symptoms of ethical dysfunction, and so one form of violence can resonate with all the others.  Even as the routines of containment also become more visible, more professionalized, and so obviously part of the system that is the real target of the attack.

Which may be why the photographers are on to something when they capture the strange, unreal, or uncanny aspect of the disaster.  These are not photos of emotional drama.  They could be from Invasion of the Body Snatchers or an updated Twilight Zone or any other sci fi movie.  Instead of the lifeworld being torn apart, its technocratic control system is revealed.  Instead of bodies torn apart, technicians in protective clothing and corpses under wraps, waiting to be tagged.

Nice massacre bodies

And yet, there is nothing wrong with these photos, or with the conduct of the police and other first responders.  We live in both lifeworld and system, and we need both human connection and technologies for living together as citizens in modern cities rather than as clans in small scale tyrannies.  Nonetheless the images are showing something important.

The world seems to be pitching into another reality, one that is more unreal than real, both present and still to come, and defined primarily by separation and violence, and by madness and helplessness.

A world in which everything appears as if it could be in a movie–and the wrong movie.  Out of order, disjointed, and not for creative expression or bold endeavors, but for what?  Killing, and cleaning up after the slaughter.

As violence becomes familiar, the world becomes strange, even to itself.  Action is legible, behavior is disciplined, everything is handled with skill and often with care–and yet, it’s not right.  The mood is wrong, the atmosphere stained, and something is odd about the light.  These things are not easy to say, and harder to explain, but you can feel them.  And now they can be seen.

Photographs by Eric Gaillard/Reuters.

June 10th, 2016

When Gag Photos Are No Joke

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

As a matter of course, we just don’t do gag photos at this blog.  After all, we’re providing serious public commentary, right?  And we feature many outstanding photographs.  As the gag photo often is assumed to be the sure sign of amateurism, you wouldn’t expect to find it among the images of the week.

TOPSHOT - The Finance Minister in Brazil's interim government, Henrique Meirelles, offers a press conference in Brasilia on May 20, 2016. The new economic team of the acting President Michel Temer updated the 2016 budget deficit expectation. / AFP / EVARISTO SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

And you’d be wrong.  You’d be wrong in the specific case, as with this photograph of Henrique Meirelles, the Finance Minister in Brazil’s interim government, at a press conference in Brasilia.  And wrong more generally, as one of the very best professional photographers, Elliott Erwitt, produced dozens of visual jokes very much like the one above.  In fact, this image looks like a signature Erwitt photo, but I doubt it’s even an homage.

I was tempted to write that Erwitt “had a weakness for” visual jokes; that’s how conventional discourse does our thinking for us.  It wasn’t a weakness, however, but another angle on the human condition.  Likewise, is the photograph above really of Henrique Meirelles, who I’ll bet does not have two antennae protruding from orange eyes?  If it’s not an image of the person named in the caption, what is it?

One answer might be that it is a portrait of an official.  Not a specific official, but an idea or at least a caricature of officialdom.  In that respect, it may be closer to the reality of modern finance than the idea it displaces: why continue to believe that decisions are being made primarily by prudent individuals, rather than being pushed one way or another by data flows and the abstractions that accompany them?  Does he see the material hardships of ordinary experience, or does he see instead through the optics of financial instruments?  Is he one of us, or does he represent the many levels of alienation that stand between ordinary experience and the decisions made at the top of elite institutions?

As that gap grows, it leads to more anger from below.  Growing inequity leads to reactions on both the left and the right, and to more demonstrations and other protests, and to violence.

And to more gag photos.

Orange County Sheriff's deputies take a protester into custody near the Anaheim Convention Center Wednesday, May 25, 2016, in Anaheim, Calif., after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a rally at the convention center. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Here the term “gag” may acquire additional meaning, although the Orange County Sheriff’s deputies may be well trained (may be; it’s possible), and the Masked Marauder seems to know the drill.

But is it a gag photo?  In one sense, no: the surreal juxtaposition of Halloween mask and riot gear is in the scene, not an optical illusion created by the camera.  But in another sense, yes: compared to the other demonstrators at the Trump rally, he probably is featured because he’s got the most unexpected costume, producing an image that most of the time would have to be created by special effects.  But in yet another sense, no: it’s not funny.  But in another sense, yes: he’s probably wearing the mask to provoke a laugh or at least something edgy enough that it’s on the edge of nervous laughter.  So, once again, we might ask, what is it?

One answer is that, similar to the image above, we are not being shown a specific demonstrator but rather an idea or at least a caricature of political unrest today.  In any case, one that is closer to the truth than what a more “unmasked” portrait of the individual would provide.  The grotesque mask (and hair) seamlessly fitted to the cameo clad bruiser suggests that we are seeing Trump’s alter ego: the surreal forces of unreason and violence that lurk below the surface of his campaign.  The many similarities with the police restraining him suggest the alignment or affinity between forces of disruption and those promoting “security” and “order” at the expense of civil society.  The fact that he probably is protesting against Trump suggests that the Left can get sucked into the same downward spiral.

Not funny, not funny at all.  Makes me want to see something light, even silly.  Maybe a dog’s head in place of its owner’s.  Just a gag, you know. . . .

Photographs by EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images and Jae C. Hong/Associated Press.

Cross-posted at Reading the Pictures.

 

January 26th, 2016

The Lesson of the Snowstorm

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

A resident shovels snow away from the entrance to his home in Union City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Midtown Manhattan, after the second-biggest winter storm in New York history, January 24, 2016. REUTERS/Rickey Rogers TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX23SDE

This is the photo that keeps coming up in the papers and the slide shows.  “A resident shovels snow from the entrance to his home in Union City, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Midtown Manhattan, after the second-biggest winter storm in New York history, on January 24, 2016.”  That’s the caption, just in case you were wondering about the who, what, where, and when.  But that isn’t saying much.

Snowstorm photographs can’t avoid being stock images: whatever they are, you’ve seen them before.  This one is no exception, so novelty is not part of the appeal.  Nor is it a particularly striking photograph.  Whatever its features, I can think in every case of photos that displayed each one more directly: the undulations of white softness draping the furniture of the world, the gentle play of light and shadow on snow, the trees heavy with their winter foliage, the monster drifts, the daunting task of digging out. . . .  This photo has them all, but each quality is stacked up with the others, and they seem to subtract from one another rather than produce a cumulative effect.  So it really is an aftermath photo: emphasizing not the massive, magical inundation but instead the individuated labor of clearing a way back to the familiar routines of ordinary life.  And yet it is in its own way captivating.  Why?

The answer, I think, is that it provides a gentle reminder of just how good life can be.  Can be: not in every case.  That snowstorm will have caused car wrecks, heart attacks, and other bad news, and eventually we’ll be told how the costs for snow removal and lost business will run to the millions or billions.  But there is another story that won’t be told, except perhaps through this photograph.

If a snowstorm is your big problem this week, you’re doing fine.  If you have to shovel snow but can walk back into a warm brick brownstone where the heat is always on, where water always flows sure and clean at the turn of your hand, where you can look up and down the street and see everyone else having the same amenities. . . . . That is the good life.

The photo shows one kind of abundance–the unusually large covering of snow–to say something about another kind of abundance.  What covers reveals.  The snow temporarily removes all the cars, mailboxes, and much else from view, but we know that they are there.  It features a man working with a blade on a stick, but we know that is the closest he gets to experiencing primitive scarcity and vulnerability.  By showing how much can be temporarily stopped, it reminds us how much activity and prosperity are taken for granted.

And there is more.  As the snow also slows us down, it reminds us how we allow some of our riches to diminish others.  We have so much that we may forget to stop and marvel at the beauty of the world.  A snowstorm is beautiful, but so is a cloudy day.  It’s wonderful to curl up with a cup of coffee on an unexpected day off and look across a glistening landscape, and it’s wonderful to take a moment amid the morning rush any other day.

Come to think of it, that’s something you can do any time you look at a photograph like this one.  And others as well.

Photograph by Rickey Rogers/Reuters.

January 19th, 2016

Emoting with Panache at the Democratic Debate

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

Hillary and Bernie

There will be lots of photos from Sunday’s debate between the Democratic Party presidential candidates.  I get a kick out of this one of Hilary and Bernie both letting it rip at the same time.  We’ve posted regularly at this blog on how politics is a performance art–and how that can be a good thing for democratic politics.  Of course, it also can be a bad thing, but this year it’s no secret that the demagoguery is all on the other side of the street.

So there are at least two reasons to like this photo: because it provides a comic reminder that political performances can be simply amusing rather than hideous examples of bad speech, and because it suggests that oratorical demonstrativeness really may add something to democratic deliberation.

To accept either argument, you have to grant me one thing: that these are two policy wonks who already have demonstrated exactly how debaters should speak: by answering most of the questions directly, demonstrating broad and deep knowledge of governance, addressing important problems and real needs facing the electorate, building coalitions while answering, and doing all this articulately, with concision, wit, and moments of eloquence.  None of this denies that they also have dodged questions, answered with obvious strategic intention, and been adept at spin and spin control.  But if you know anything about how reasonable speech is supposed to work, whether on in a meeting or a public forum, they you can’t do much better than go to school on these two.

Which is why it’s a hoot that they also look like a comedy team on Saturday Night Live.  “Come on people–I WANT YOU TO CARE, DAMN IT!”  And “Wheee!  Look at me!  Aren’t we having fun?”  Completely different and completely the same; opposites and complements; raging seriousness and silly enjoyment side by side.  Together they capture what is in fact a deep tension within our political culture: too much entertainment or too much principled rigidity can each be a bad thing.  A well-functioning democracy needs some of each: at the least, it needs to appeal to ordinary people and get competing interests to work together, and in response to serious issues on behalf of our best values.  And it needs political leaders who can do that, and audiences who can appreciate what is required.

Needless to say, there is some irony in the photo as well.  Bernie Sanders is the one who is labeled an ideologue, while Hillary Clinton has a reputation for pandering.  Surely there could be other photographs of them switching roles: something they should be able to do, frankly.  And we can be confident that will, because of the emotional panache that is evident in this photo.

“Emoting” is a common answer in crossword puzzles.  The clues include “orating,” “acting,” and variations thereof such as “making a speech.”  That simple equation of public speaking and a theatrical performance actually captures an important truth.  We need our leaders to emote on stage–sometimes to communicate what really matters, and sometimes simply to provide a good show.  What they say and everything else matters, too, but let’s take a moment to see what is there to be seen.  One public art has captured another.

Democracy needs them both: both seriousness and humor, and both photojournalism and oratory.

And who knows?  Maybe even both Hilary and Bernie.

Photograph by Randall Hill/Reuters.

December 24th, 2015

Season’s Greetings for the New Normal

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

weathr map

It’s only a projection from alarmist liberal media; nothing to worry about.  (The map shows predictions for degrees above normal on December 25.)  Enjoy the weather, and any respite you might find.  NCN will be back in January.

November 30th, 2015

Star Wars Optics and Socialist Dreams

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

Tkachenko-18

Incredible, isn’t it?  So perfectly designed and yet so strange.  Ultramodern and yet medieval, like a space ship on a surveillance mission and a castle readied for battle, set off by itself in forbidding isolation and yet connected somehow to distant galaxies.  The tableau is so unique and so striking that it could be a scene from the forthcoming Star Wars blockbluster: we can imagine the rebel stragglers, downed on an unknown planet, approaching the daunting edifice that has emerged out of the snowstorm.  They can’t survive outside, but they don’t know what lies within.  Friend or enemy?  Life, death, or something worse than death?

They were socialists, actually: the structure is a monument to socialism built on Bulgaria’s Mount Buzludzha.  It is one of a series of remarkable images captured by photographer Danila Tkachenko.  The exhibition is available in the current issue of the National Geographic Magazine and at their website. Influenced by a nuclear waste explosion that had scarred his own family, Tkachenko set out “to look for other sites and structures that symbolized an abandoned march toward progress.”  He found them.

The movie optic doesn’t come from Tkachenko, and I don’t intend to make light of his work.  But science fiction movies and documentary photography have more and more important intersections than you might think.  (Search for “science fiction” at this blog and you’ll see a few more examples of what I have in mind.)  Tkachenko describes the now abandoned monument as a “very surrealistic object,” and he’s right.  Although having the exceptional formal simplicity and coherence of a fine art object, it nonetheless is out of place with itself and its surroundings: the scene presents a mixture of aesthetics, politics, and an abstracted natural environment where each part seems alien to the others even as they fit together seamlessly.  Surreal indeed.

Susan Sontag declared that “photography is the only art that is natively surreal.”  That was not meant to be a compliment.  It was instead a radical deconstruction of the medium that was thought to be inherently realistic.  Sontag was right, but not in the manner that she would have wished.  Photography is surreal, and good thing, too, for that is exactly why it is capable of capturing the “natively surreal” features of social reality.  Which, I might add, is a lot of social reality.

The monument itself may not be to your taste. I think it is magnificent, but you might see a glorified birdbath.  That disagreement is worth having, but it is beside the point today.  The photograph has captured something more comprehensive than the artwork itself: the pervasive alienation of the socialist ideal on planet Earth.  True, Bulgaria fell well short of the ideal society, and the money spent on the monument perhaps could have gone to help the common people rather than glorify an ideal or a regime ruling in its name.  But if present trends continue, one can imagine a planet trapped in a perpetual winter of neoliberal capitalism.  That planet could be dotted with massive, ultramodern castles surrounded by vast spaces of abandonment. It would seem like a movie to us today, but we already are living the trailer.

Perhaps an abandoned monument to a noble dream is surreal, but some day rebel stragglers may look up at the ruin and want to ask, compared to what?

Photograph by Danila Tkachenko.  The quote from Sontag is from On Photography, p. 51.

Cross-posted at ReadingThePictures.

November 2nd, 2015

Generic Refugees and the World to Come

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

You don’t have to see too many of the many photographs of the European refugee crisis before they all begin to blend together.  Even those that may seem moderately distinctive have a generic quality to them.

Syrian people sleep inside a greenhouse at a makeshift camp for asylum seekers near Roszke, southern Hungary, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and others are still making their way slowly across Europe, seeking shelter where they can, taking a bus or a train where one is available, walking where it isn't. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Was this photo taken in Croatia or Hungary or . . . ?  In August or September or October?  Are they from Syria or Turkey or Iraq?  Headed to Germany or Sweden or wherever they can be taken in?

For the record, this photo is of  Syrian refugees at a makeshift camp for asylum seekers near Roszke, southern Hungary, in September.  For all I know, they’re still there.

One response to the generic representation of the refugees is to call for more contextualization.  There is need for that, always, and both writers and photographers are laboring to provide more nuanced stories and images that can bring out the range of circumstances and experiences that make up the crisis.  Let me suggest, however, that we also need to go in the other direction: the more interchangeable the images, they more they point toward the full significance of this historical moment.

The significance I have in mind was set out prophetically by Giorgio Agamben, who argued that refugees and other dispossessed persons were not exceptions to the modern political order of human rights protected by state institutions, but rather the representative figures of a dystopian world being produced by the continued development of modern forms of power.  The real question then is not how or when will the more affluent nations absorb these migrants into their societies, but rather when will the citizens of those societies find that they have been reduced to the status of refugees?

Outlandish?  Perhaps, and 1984 isn’t here yet either, so one could conclude that we have been warned and let it go at that.  But plenty of photographers are not letting it go, whether they’ve read Agamben or not.  Here I’m reprising an outstanding short essay by Anthony Downey in the Spring 2009 issue of Aperture.  It should be required reading for anyone who is interested in the relationship between photojournalism and human rights.  Downey takes up Agamben’s claim and turns it into an orientation for seeing what some of the images can show us about this critical moment in the self-understanding of modernity.  Stated more simply, he suggests how photographers are already revealing a world in the making: one in which more and more people are being abandoned.

Downey’s essay is a brief one, so there is much that could be added, not least in counting all the ways of abandonment.  Whether European states are unwilling or overwhelmed, and whether the conflicts producing the migrations fester because of political dysfunction or indifference in the global community of states is beside the point.  At the end of the day, context may not have mattered so much after all.  Especially if we we looking only for information, instead of asking how photography can disclose a world.

The photograph above may have a few clues to offer in that regard.  Note how it already includes a surreal decontextualization of its own.  We might start with the I (Heart) NY T-shirt in the foreground.  Did he buy it in Times Square?  (Could have, actually.)  And the general mess of largely empty bedding is also disconcerting, as if the scene was somewhere between a teenager’s bedroom and the back room of a thrift store.  And where is everybody, and how can we get a wider sense of things when our vision is so hemmed in by the plastic structure?  Because the structure was built to be a greenhouse, one can even imagine that we are seeing a strange bio-political operation that produces bare life and cheap labor.  These refugees are somewhere in the recent past and also somewhere in a possible future, while the present appears to be largely a mess.  And not just any mess, but one that shows how people are already becoming habituated to abandonment.

If Agamben and Downey are right–and they definitely are not entirely wrong–then that NY T-shirt is also providing exactly the right context for viewing the image.  That shirt can be found anywhere in the world, and so their world is our world.  The migrations being produced by war and war-related disasters are another kind of globalism.  One possible solution may involve a more cosmopolitan sense of political identity along with a low-impact economy of resource sharing, and the T-shirt, greenhouse, and other objects in the photo point in that direction, too.  The crisis will continue, however, until enough people start to discern the possible worlds already being revealed.

We are all on the same road.  Sooner or later, we will all belong to the same community.  The only question is whether it will be one in which all but a few have been abandoned to a world of exploitation and displacement, or one in which hardship is shared for the benefit of all.

Photograph by Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press.  Downey’s article is “Threshholds of a Coming Community: Photography and Human Rights,” Aperture, Spring 2009, 36-43.

Cross-posted at Reading the Pictures.

October 26th, 2015

Standing at the Edge of the Sea of Images

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed

A man stands on the shore as refugees and migrants arrive on the Greek Lesbos island after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey on October 22, 2015. An EU scheme to relocate asylum seekers from overstretched Italy and Greece could grind to a halt just two weeks after it began if member states fail to meet their obligations, an EU source said. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Wrong title, right?  This strangely beautiful photograph is about the European refugee crisis; it is not about the contemporary media environment. True enough, but I’m asking it to do double duty.

After being in dry dock for five months, this blog is heading back to sea.  The down time was used to finish our next book manuscript, and now The Public Image is in production at the University of Chicago Press.  NCN started in the immediate aftermath of our last publication with the Press, and it has lead to another volume that we never anticipated writing at all.  The book will be out in October 2016, and in the interim we will be posting here periodically.  A redesign of the main page also is in the works, but as always speed will not be our strong suit.

We have noticed that photojournalism got along just fine during our absence.  Good thing, too.  We continue to be gratified at how journalism endures despite the wrenching technological and financial changes that are redefining the industry.  This sustainability doesn’t happen by accident, and it requires everything from difficult business decisions to the personal obsessiveness of individual reporters and photographers.  John and I are not part of that mix; we have another job to do.

This blog is provided to encourage the engaged spectatorship that is needed to make the most of photojournalism as it is an important public art for a democratic society.  We focus on the individual image, despite the social fact that the audience is awash in a deluge of images cascading across multiple media and platforms.  We emphasize the close relationship between aesthetics and politics, and not to warn against enthrallment but rather to understand what is being revealed about the world.  We offer interpretations of specific images not to say they are better than others, but to suggest how every good image is inviting us into a liminal space between virtual and material worlds, involving past, present, and future realities, and offering important choices about how to live with others.

And so we get back to the photograph above.  He, too, stands in a liminal space: between land and sea, the Middle East and Europe, life and death.  His world is at once harsh and beautiful.  Harsh because he can’t survive on either the cold sea or the hard shore, and the litter from previous refugees is a reminder that, although alone, he is part of a vast multitude that is severely straining the organizational and political capacity of the EU.  He can expect only a hard road ahead, one where he may become even more vulnerable, more hungry, colder, and having bleaker prospects that he has at the moment.

For all that, however, he stands within a world of profound natural beauty.  More important still, he adds to that beauty.   His metallic blanket captures the silver tints in the sea and sky, and the flair of the blanket, now like a tunic made sea foam, evokes a long lineage of paintings and mythic figuration going back to Greek antiquity.  Just as Athena, sea nymphs, a multitude of other figures, and before all of that our species came from the sea, once again something unexpected and uncannily human stands on the beach, standing between two worlds and sure to change this one.

And so the two strands come together.  Whether any single viewer is there or not, photojournalism continues to provide a constant stream of images.  Those images are the difference between living in a public world or being relegated to private spaces more or less subject to state control.  Whether we look or not, the photographs are there, like a refugee wrapped in wind torn silver vulnerability at the water’s edge.  Each image like each migrant is one of a multitude, but still one.  Waiting for someone to say, “Here, come this way, we can find a place for you.  Come to think of it, we might need to hear what you have to say.”

Photography  by Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images.

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