Photographic imagery is a relatively recent and violent addition to the communication arsenal. Oral traditions that existed for thousands of years have been annihilated by the written word and its successors. Where we once exercised our imagination, we now allow our imaginations to be forcibly restrained and ushered through a series of narrow corridors in predictable fashion.
The nature of violence has changed from physical to psychological – the impact of increasing pressure, speed etc contributes to a world in which violence is manifested through more subtle outlets.
The more detail we are plied and supplied with, the less it allows us to imagine, and the less we are able to come up with a personal interpretation, the more authority as truth the image or thing has. There is no longer room for “us”, as the presence and intention of the author rule over the image, dictating truth from above.
A story either takes place before our eyes, in which case we have little or no control over it, or it happens in our heads, thus story-telling evokes the imagination, therefore modern, highly detailed and “realistic” images such as those used to tell the news are poor story-telling devices. It is mystery and opportunity that exercises the imagination, so that if the reader or student is placed in a position of being force-fed, or is not allowed to express their own opinion and question what is presented to them, then they become an arbitrary part of an errorless reproductive process. There is a difference between literary imagery and imagination.
Fame or reputation often precedes photos, that is, I am unable to view or critique them separately from their baggage. Groups and individuals hope to manufacture these effects through competitions, praise, association (borrowed authority) etc. – if it won a prize/so-and-so said so/it is omnipresent (salience and familiarity) it must be good. In simple terms, we are more likely to prefer a photo if we know its author (and even technique) in advance. Removing or nullifying these possible halo effects by turning images into words the notoriety can no longer precede the photo, and instead the “image” is created in the mind’s eye of the reader. Thus the control imposed by the camera, and the perspective offered by the photograph is diminished, in favour of an interaction that calls upon the input of the audience.
Four large men inexplicably struggle to carry what appears to be an injured football player off the pitch. The largest, wearing a grey sheriff’s uniform and blue medical gloves clutches the injured man by his right arm, trying to keep him from sagging any further.
Next in line, a shorter yet equally solid-looking police officer wearing beige slacks, a bullet-proof vest and sunglasses that accentuate the ratio between his large head and small facial features, has possession of the left arm. He almost looks proud, as if returning from the hunt.
To the right of him, officer number 3 wears what appears to be an all black or dark blue uniform, complete with baseball cap emblazoned with some kind of identifying logo or crest, in addition to at least 5 other badges that are visible on his uniform. With gloved hands he holds the injured by his left ankle as if carrying a sack of explosives.
Porter number 4 appears to be wearing more of a soldier’s uniform than anything, with his helmet fastened around his bearded chin he does his best to help out using one hand to hoist the injured man by the toes of his right foot. Dressed up with nowhere to go, number 4 does an unconvincing job of coming to the rescue, and his facial expression shows no sign of exerted effort whatsoever.
Our quartet of shiny-shoed law-enforcers make their way past the coincidentally patriotically-coloured free magazine stands towards a car with a roof-rack.
I am left thinking “who plays football in their socks?”