Knee-Jerk: A Few Wonderings

“Whether the photograph is understood as a na├»ve object or the work of an experienced artificer, its meaning–and the viewer’s response–depends on how the picture is identified or misidentified; that is, on words….But one day captions will be needed, of course. And the misreadings and the misrememberings, and the new ideological uses for the pictures, will make their difference.

“Central to modern expectations, and modern ethical feelings, is the conviction that war is an aberration, if an unstoppable one. That peace is the norm, if an unattainable one. This, of course, is not the way war has been regarded throughout history. War has been the norm and peace the exception.”

–Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

I have been working my way through this essay for the past year. I’ll pick it up at random and catch a paragraph or two, and if I’m lucky, these moments will coincide with the phases in my life when I’m angry at particular aspects of the world. War photography and photojournalism that captures human suffering: How do viewers react to/experience it? (How) Do their feelings change as this form of expression evolves? What effects does the photographer intend? In what ways do s/he and the audience share a conscience?

“God does not demand that we give up our personal dignity, that we throw in our lot with random people, that we lose ourselves and turn from all that is not him. God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars. It is a life with God which demands these things.

“Experience has taught the race that if knowledge of God is the end, then these habits of life are not the means but the condition in which the means operates. You do not have to do these things; not at all. God does not, I regret to report, give a hoot. You do not have to do these things–unless you want to know God. They work on you, not on him.

“You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”

–Annie Dillard, Teaching A Stone to Talk

I wonder about God as a photographer, if what I see in the world requires anything of my conscience. I wonder whether captions are necessary, or if the experience itself provides sufficient commentary. I wonder how much of the experience I am in control of.

The Finals Crunch Shutdown

Is it okay if I don’t post any real content that will definitely not display my writing skills? I’m so burnt out from this semester, and I didn’t even do anything. Well, I listened to some new music.

I think I like the Retribution Gospel Choir. If “Mormon” is supposed to have a sound, I don’t think this is it. I was pleased.

Oh, speaking of retribution, here’s a song about war by PJ Harvey. It’s darkness tricked into peppiness; it’s a pretty catchy song, and it sort of reminds me of what Woodstock might have felt like. DISCLAIMER – I didn’t see the whole video because I was working on a paper at the same time, so I didn’t see the scanty claddenness until later. I apologize. I changed the video to a recording of the song. Your eyes should be able to heal now.

Remember how tomorrow is the last day of class? Remember how next Tuesday is my last final for the semester? I keep telling myself this hoping I’ll eventually care. I need to try something else.

Oh, awesome. The person to my right in this computer lab is reading a fanfic site forum, and the guy to my left is playing one of those shooting games as well as watching 30 Seconds to Mars videos. Look who else isn’t caring about school!

Footage of Bastille Day

Regardez ces images et savez: Vive la France! And don’t forget to click “more” for the rest of the story. Also, if you hover over the photos, you’ll get their titles in addition to the captions below them.

We start our journey in the early evening, as the prisoners are settling into their nocturnal routines.

We first find ourselves a few miles north of the Bastille, making sure our presence as the French is known throughout the province. Fiction catches our eye.

We remember the days of the Revolution we're about to start.

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In the galley, my shackles clink as I rouse. They say the rest of the fleet is gone, destroyed. The bow slowly slices the horizon, and our synchronized oars obey the coxswain’s rhythmic commands: stroke, stroke.

The vessel lunges forward, forward. Our bodies move in unison, backward, counter to our progress.

The air smells of rot. Death has gone sour.

Our lungs huff and hum, and arms pull and legs push. The skin we shed is the grime that cakes in the creases of our throats and the crooks of our elbows. We never molt completely. Never down here.

The chains drag and swing, thud and clack. It becomes a dance, and I hear it in my sleep. It makes me sleepy.

Light peeks through a porthole. A point. It perks my pupils.

Your eyes used to be empty, too.

Eventually shadows fade, booming subsides, and we hear cheers on deck.

We keep rowing, rowing.