Essay on Suffering in Photographs

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Suffering in Photographs

Photographs are used to document history, however selected images are chosen to do so. Often times these images graphically show the cruelty of mankind. In her book, Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag asks, "What does it mean to protest suffering, as distinct from acknowledging it?" To acknowledge suffering is just to capture it, to point it out and show somebody else that it exists. In order to protest suffering, there has to be some sort of moral decision that what is shown in the photograph is wrong, and a want from the viewer to change that.

Sontag says that throughout history, things focused on in art and history tend to be the "product of wrath, divine or human." There is much art showing the
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This strange need is not a new thing, since this focus on violence went all the way back to Christian and pagan art.

In war, photography and art again serve the purpose of acknowledging and sometimes protesting suffering. In the First World War cameras were used for military intelligence, to capture an event. "The caption of a photograph is traditionally neutral informative: a date, a place, names." A photograph is supposed to just record what happened and not takes sides. However, "it is always the image that someone chose; to photograph is to frame, and to frame is to exclude." So the photograph is supposed to be neutral, but the photographer is still deciding what details to focus on. The caption has just facts on it, because supposedly that is what the photograph is recording. While it is true that photographs cannot explain everything themselves, they do serve as visual aids to, what otherwise be, a pallid world.

Goya was an artist who made etchings called The Disasters Of War. These etchings showed the horrible things that were done by Napoleon's soldiers. They were made in order to shock the viewer and make them feel the pain of what happened. These sketches did not go in narrative order or show exact details of an event, they were just images showing that bad things like that happen during war. Normal captions have dates and places written which detach the viewer from the pain of the picture. On his sketches,
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