Shortly after e-flux journal published Jon Rich’s essay “The Blood of the Victim” last June, Jessica Kornheisl and Natasha Llorens wrote in with responses to the piece. To offer your own response to texts published in e-flux journal, write to email@example.com.
In “The Blood of the Victim,” a text published in issue 26 of this journal, Jon Rich begins with a classic formulation of photojournalism’s ethical quandary, that images of human starvation taken in order to feed the world’s desire to know, and which the world buys in order to satisfy that desire, are monstrous. Because the photographer’s identity is enmeshed with the systems of circulation for which he produces images—neocolonialist systems—he cannot avoid the ethical responsibility for producing death as an object, a thing observed. The image produced is intolerable to the spectator, even as we desire it, because it shows us our own unwillingness (attachment to morning coffee, for example) to make death stop.
Rich then offers us a counter-example: photographs of the Syrian revolution taken by its own victims/producers that collapse the structure of the traditional photojournalistic image, thereby enacting the image’s decolonization. The photographers reveal their own mortality instead of being revealed as mortal by a spectral photographer, breaking apart the victim/hero binary. The world, however, does not want these images-as-events produced by Syrian protesters, what the world desires (and what CNN provides) are pictures about events constructed by a third party—a “branded” view of injustice and a structure the dominant paradigm depends on in order to control the histories of revolution and of victimhood respectively.
Read the full article here.