A Thousand Words

Friday, March 14, 2008


Novelist Jim Lewis once believed that photographs were a necessary part of any wartime tale. Fallujah, however, changed all that. Lewis told us in 2004 that graphic documentation of violence doesn't help anyone understand the story.

Comments [2]

Matt from West Lafayette, Indiana

In the midst of a show seemingly designed to jar the listeners conscience, I was taken aback by Jim Lewis' assertion that it is more important to control the narrative of a massacre than to reveal the hard truth of the incident. Yes, Mr. Lewis and two other reporters were the only members of the media to document the atrocities that day in Bunia.

They experienced the aftermath of the massacre like no other people on the planet. That experience however, does not give him ownership over the context the collective public draws from his photographs. That context should never be owned by any single person, or any single profession. Assuming total ownership over the facts and contexts of political conflict can lead to disastrous consequences, and should not be applied to photographs any more than it should be applied to fellow human beings.

Mar. 19 2008 01:35 PM
andrew hennessy from D.C.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a picture cannot always capture a thousand words. I really like words, but I wonder about your suggested conclusion. That images are powerful in America’s culture is apparent. All the advertising money is spent for some reason.

The lack of an image’s affect may also imply cultural narcissism and desensitization. The host could identify with the quotidian shoppers card (western life). The U.S. media showed very few images of the death bombing brought to Fallujah (white phosphorus).

It is funny that the spot is followed by a story of B Spears. Can people identify with her? Pop cultural covets her? Follow that with the Wire: more pop.

Didn’t S Sontag write a book about Lewis’s topic? Eventually she started to look at it differently.

Mar. 15 2008 02:48 PM

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