There are many aspects of photography, many different paths down which it might lead. My own path is a journey in pursuit of reality, or “true reality” as I like to call it (though I know how redundant that sounds), and with the potential of photography to freeze a moment in time, “reality” is indeed a common pursuit in photography, but not the “true reality” or the spiritual reality which lies behind, through, and all around that surface-level reality. I heard a quote that really seemed to be attempting to bridge the gap between the surface reality and the deeper and wider reality.
In the biographical documentary about James Nachtwey, War Photographer, Nachtwey said, “It’s more difficult to get publications to focus on issues that are more critical, that do not provide people with an escape from reality, but attempt to get them deeper into reality, to be concerned about something much greater than themselves.”
Modern culture, which globally is (unfortunately) becoming more Western and even American, has focused on being entertained instead of engaging life around us. It is the difference between reading a book and watching television. It is giving the kids a video game instead of taking them on a walk or kicking the ball around. Those things have their place, but not if they completely replace an interconnected, relational, engaged approach to life.
Nachtwey mentioned how advertising has pushed out content. It is quite simple: companies do not want their perfume and clothing (and beautiful models) seen across the page from war, disease, poverty, and injustice. Evidently, it is hard to sell luxury items when readers might actually be affected by photos of those in suffering. They might just become “concerned about something much greater than themselves”.
It is so easy to be gamed, advertised, and sit-commed to spiritual death. Nacthwey wants to be the eyes in the field for us, and for some of us media producers, we should follow his lead, engage the world, and with camera in hand, pass on a taste of reality to our smaller audiences.
Instead of striving to create more online forum prize winners, why not switch off the ultimate entertainment internet, and re-join our local community, our neighborhoods, our families.
Here’s a tip of the hat to you, Mr. Nachtwey.