Moving Images: A Conversation on the Power of Photography | Kavli Conversation – Oct 29, 2019

Moving Images: A Conversation on the Power of Photography | Kavli Conversation – Oct 29, 2019


A professor of journalism here at the
Carter journalism Institute and the director of the science health
environment reporting program the science communication workshops and we
are about to start a very exciting Kavli Conversation on multiple levels
it’s the first one that we’ve ever done about photography and I’m very excited
about that we have two very smart people three because of Lee Hotz, our
longtime moderator to talk about the power of images and we also have some
very exciting technical complications that were working our way through so
we’re hopeful that it’s all going to work out and thank you for being patient
with us I’m very grateful to both Jennifer Tucker and Lynn Johnson for
appearing in Jennifer’s case in person and Lynn’s case virtually the Skype from
Arizona where she’s attending to her parents and as always very grateful to
Robert Lee hotz for all of the work he puts in to create these amazing events
so I’ll leave the formal introductions to Lee and just say thank you Lee for
all that you do especially for this one where there was a lot of interesting
setup that was necessary so with that here is Robert Lee Haute’s
he is a distinguished writer in residence here at the Carter Institute
of journalism and a science writer for The Wall Street Journal
take it away Lee thank you Dan thank you very much so welcome to the kathleen
conversations on science communications now our purpose here this evening is as
always to explore how we report science when we bring together the best in
science journalism with the best in science communications to explore how
new research reaches the general public and you know can we do it better it can
take more than words to create effective science journalism
sometimes it takes no words at all but some very powerful images and and that’s
really what we’re going to be talking about tonight so I should say these
conversations are sponsored by the cavalry foundation and the NYU science
health and environmental reporting program which is directed by Professor
Dan Fagan I should say that we have one more in our fall series here on November
12th we’re going to have something very special we will be screening a new
documentary on implicit bias a topic of considerable medical and scientific
controversy when we’ll be joined with by filmmaker Robin Houser and then Harvard
University’s psychologists mahzarin banaji who actually pioneered most of
what we know about implicit bias will also be joining us and then we’ll as
part of our conversation about the film be conducting interactive testing with
the audience on their unexamined and implicit biases it should be extremely
interesting now as we go this is a conversation and so labeled not a speech
so I encourage you both here before me but also lurking somewhere in the ether
that you favor us with your questions as we go this is a conversation please use
the microphone so that those of you here who ask questions they can hear you
online and can hear you for posterity this is being recorded and those of you
online can tweet your questions by using the hashtag tablet convo and you know I
never know why I stare at the ceiling when I say those of you
they’re angels gathered at the clouds I’m not sure so I want to frame our our
conversation with some numbers every day people upload something like 350 million
images to Facebook to snapchat users share something on the order of eight
thousand seven hundred and ninety-six photos every second all told people
upload an average of 1.8 million digital images every single day that’s 657
billion photos per year we may be taking pictures but are we photographers that’s
our canvas this evening we want to focus on the Selective power of the image in
science journalism to drive story to drive narrative we’re not here to
discuss f-stops in Photoshop we want to consider a tension patience story choice
trust epics respect rejection collaboration how a photo becomes news
when is it journalism and when is it not how does it become history we want to
consider how the camera’s lens in the right hands makes the intangible visible
and concrete that’s it the essence of so much at the journalism that we attempt
to do and we’re going to go tonight where our eyes lead us guided by
National Geographic photographer Lynn Johnson and Wesleyan University visual
historian Jennifer Tucker now Lynn Johnson normally based in Pittsburgh is
one of natural Geographics women of vision she was a finalist for the
Pulitzer Prize for future photography for her National Geographic photo essay
on gender this past year she was a Pulitzer finalist for her work on an ash
geographic feature on the first US face transplant operation
she was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust prize for medicine and fate and
medicine in focus and among the best photos of the 76th annual pictures of
the Year International she earned first place in science and Natural History and
all of those are the least of the things that she’s accomplished she is as you
can see unavoidably in Tucson Arizona this evening and joins us through the
miracles of FaceTime and the Internet Jennifer Tucker is here with us
physically studies scientific photographs to better understand history
and culture and politics in areas from environmental history and law to popular
science medicine and gun regulation at Wesleyan she’s an associate professor of
history feminism and of science in society her scholarship traces the use
of visual evidence in environmental science and pollution reform and visual
exhibits in Victorian courtroom debates over air and river pollution she’s the
author of a really extraordinary book nature exposed photography is eyewitness
in Victorian science and as an authority on visual culture she’s written for the
New York Times The Wall Street Journal I’m pleased to say the Washington Post
time and the Boston Globe yeah this is going to be a little different from how
we normally conduct these conversations and if all goes well here’s how it’s
going to work Lynne is going to guide us through a set
of her images each one of which is a potential talking point she’s going to
tell us a little bit about how she responds to them how they might have
been taken I might question her I might ask Jennifer to do
so and then Jennifer is going to guide us through a set of images that
highlight her work putting this in a visual history or goal context then
we’re going to look at pairs of images that the two of them have chosen
together all of these are talking points in our evenings conversation so with
some luck Lynne we’re going to begin and here is you ask you then to introduce us
to a woman named cue yes first of all thank you for allowing me to float in
over the side there and I’m delighted to be a part of this Jennifer and I had
some great conversations about our imagery so different and yet found some
great common ground so I will just begin and kind of talk briefly about each of
these images and really please ask any questions that come to mind
these are drawn from your reportage these are images that are drawn from
narratives from journalistic pieces that you’ve done by and large yes so each of
these images are from a story almost likely done for Geographic and I tend to
get stories that are more about ideas or trends or moments or things like
vanishing languages etc issues or you know viruses you can’t see but that
deeply impact individual lives and this young lady Q actually I met Q doing a
story about stress for Geographic and and knew that I wanted to address this
scourge of military sexual trauma and that found Q and she agreed to be a part
of this project and the trend of this sexual violence in the military on
campus and the church I mean we all are familiar with with this and I don’t
think that it has been addressed in the military at all so it’s at least one in
five individuals one in five women I’m sure it’s more than that and you CQ
inert on her couch unable to really address her life and she went into the
Marines after 9/11 believing she was a patriot and was similary she was raped
by her gunnery sergeant multiple times when she served in the Middle East so
the next I don’t know do you want me to just go through these lis we interrupt
you I’m curious just as a practical matter this is an image deceptively in
repose yes it looks like a first glance it looks like someone taking a nap on a
couch and and then as it grows on you you start to feel something one of the
things that’s very interesting about your approach to invisible topics as it will see is you
make them intensely human you know I think I feel so grateful to have this
these kinds of challenges because they are deeply human and are dependent on
developing relationships with people and at the same time they’re kind of
intellectually challenging you know how do we how do you help someone who will
never meet these people to see the impact of a blast of a an act of
violence of of something disappearing of something internal and so there are
always so many strands at work and the way one thinks and how creative you have
to be and how you have to bring every part of yourself to building the
relationship and the trust and I spent many many weeks with cue this was just
part way into our getting to know each other and so she felt she could be
completely herself and hopefully what the reader the viewer feels is is her
her kind of inert energy and then you know we want people to enter the
photograph to feel the photograph and then ask you know what is going on here
and and learn more you know we’re really calling out to the curious and so so and
it’s and and I think sometimes it’s it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not but in
every case there’s always so much more to the story than what you see and and I
think all those numbers you mentioned at the beginning as you introduce these
ideas is you know people are not seeing and
or they are simply amassing imagery which is a different thing that’s like
shopping that’s not seeing and to be in the
presence of someone who has suffered and to know that they are asking you giving
you permission to put their story into the world that is a deep responsibility
and so it it’s not a facile thing no you said something interesting just a minute
ago Lynde that leads us I think to the next picture you you you are working
with this idea in the image the idea of making something internal and invisible
visible yes so this is some major Jeff Hall and
his family he experienced his time in Afghanistan he experienced blast force
injury which actually cannot be seen on any kind of brain scan it happens that
blast force injury in the brain happens in the cellular level and and completely
alters a person’s ability to remember to conform to any societal standards to
control their behavior and their violence and so he was suicidal and his
wife courageous soul that she is said I am NOT going to clean your brains off of
the bedroom wall I am NOT going to tell your girls who love you that you
couldn’t go on that you didn’t have the courage to go on you will not make you
know not destroy all of our lives so he finally found some help at the intrepid
center for excellence and Bethesda and he was a part of a creative process
where they made these masks so I got the assignment from Geographic it was just
presented to me on a you know a piece of copy paper a series
of 20 masks on this page and I didn’t have any idea what the story was but I
looked at those kind of horrific suggestions of life experience and I
thought an editor said oh you want this three and I was like yes I have no idea
what it is but I want to do it and he said that this mask that he made was a
was a an amalgam of all the violence he had seen and all the violence he had he
had created and the lives of others and by making it it helped him
subconsciously on very those memories and begin to deal with them and heal so
a very important and odd an important moment to be back with his family and
alive and perhaps a little odd rendering of that but meaningful I hope so
you know as journalists we’re we’re so often told like you can’t you can’t pose
a photograph that if we catch you you know rearranging the scene moving the
baby booties closer to the wreckage of the car or whatever you know you’ll lose
your Pulitzer and yet it’s very clear in this image and in others that we’ll see
you’re very willing to sort of create tableaus I guess I call them tableau
vivant would be like the 19th century thing and this is an example of that
doesn’t doesn’t that make you uncomfortable as a photojournalist not
at all because I think that photography as a
language has many possibilities and incarnations and I am always a
journalist I am always curious and searching for information and doing
research but the moment that one chooses to represent the reality of the story
I think has to fit with the intention not just in the editorial intention but
the intention of the people you’re photographing they are choice to face
the camera and face the viewer is a powerful one and you know we we can’t
just be tourists in other people’s pain at some point it’s much more dignified
to say yes let’s meet the eye let’s both have courage on either side of that
photograph let me go to the next image and and Jennifer I’m going to be
interested in hear from you on this too because here we’re talking about won’t aim itself wait a minute they’re an inanimate object but it’s an
inanimate object with special resonance to New Yorkers I think to Americans in
general but particularly to those of us who make our lives in this city and it’s
it’s presented I don’t know is evidence almost of something tell us about it
Linnaean Jennifer I’m curious but aspect of this picture so Lynn what are we
looking at here well yes I chose this picture because of
Jennifer because she had me thinking about evidence and photographs as
evidence and and how an image can and in a substance can be altered in meaning so
this is actually dust from the pile from 9/11 from that time that seared in
everyone’s memory and it’s being held by someone at the New York Historical
Society so it is actually you know these are this is dust of you know people in
buildings and cars and and dirt sand paper and the reality is that it is now
an artifact and it it’s it’s been kind of purified in some way but it still
holds the power of that kind of collective memory but it’s definitely
Jennifer that looked at this picture I was like yes this is a Jennifer
photograph so what do you make of this image Jennifer seeing as you’re the one
that inspired its inclusion I’m very drawn to this picture because
one of the things that we often see when we are looking at photographs that were
taken some of the photographic coverage around 911 is the photograph right
before it just as the plane is about to hit the towers and that was a photograph
that was that became iconic and if I’m remembering correctly I think one of the
decisions was made editorially not to show some of the photographs of what was
happening below the buildings because there was so much destruction and gore
and so this kind of image of between life and death and almost I think what
Barbie Barbie solitaire talks about the the kind of as if the moment the moment
arrested in time when it wasn’t clear exactly what was what was happening I
think what’s so powerful about this image is it’s showing you know it was
the dust from the artifact from the aftermath and presented I mean with
these gloved hands coming out with that it’s sort of disembodied it makes that
kind of reinforces it’s it’s representation as forensic forensic
evidence and in the context of some of the legal just discussions around first
responders I think it’s it has a lot of resonances it’s just a very powerful
image and picks up the history of the visual language of specimens I mean it’s
interesting because there’s an image it takes something that there an event that
was of course you know very powerful very emotional but also in some respects
photographically was considered too painful to show there is some very the
photographs of the Junkers which were published the day or two in the
aftermath of the of the event and then vanished from public memory because they
were sorted by journalistic editorial agreement kind of expunged from the
collective you know because it was to what invading the privacy of the person
who’s made that choice because these are all people who chose you know this is
abstracted that into this kind of jar it’s a really strangely compelling image
and yet I wonder to those of us who are seeing it for the first time you need a
caption you need an explanation you need to wrap this image in some words to
really get its meaning I mean Lynne do you need to lean on words or you believe
as well as a photographer that images alone could do it now I love words I
love words and I think we need words that we need that marriage of words and
an imagery and I said to Jennifer when we were working with this something
about you know the words on her images and she said oh I have too many words
like no no no I love the words I think we need the context because you know
that’s just arrogance to believe that a photograph can do everything it can’t
and I think when presented with an image like this that is sort of spare and
curious once you have once you know the back story once you have the language
then it becomes more powerful we need those layers but I think that you know
what the bigger conversation is why are we being excluded from seeing the
powerful images that help us be realistic about what is going on in the
world and I know that’s something that we’ll deal with later in this set of
images but it’s a it’s certainly I think more and more on the mind
well let’s move now to a more conventionally journalistic image this
is a young man in Hanoi Hospital he’s 21 and he is actually dying of the avian
flu so I did a story about the they called it bird flu traveling primarily
throughout Asia looking at the impact of this this you know virus that was
considered to be so deadly and a scourge and the reason for many animals to be
slaughtered and people sequestered and he actually survived this attack of
avian flu and went home to his village and at this moment it was unclear
whether he would survive and so he is kind of oddly disembodied and without
identity but the gauze of her eyes and mouth is to protect him and to keep him
from being you know dehydrated and and even more at risk so in order to get to
this photograph when you had to work you’re not in a culture you knew well
not with a language you knew well and you worked well you had a collaborator
you had a fixer right that was a challenging relationship how did you
work that so this young man had had a father of course his name is Minh Tuan
he was our fixer and interpreter and he was very much worked against us in the
beginning us being the Tim Appenzeller who is the writer on this story and
science editor at Geographic at the time and at some point I just sat him down
and I said min Hwan what why are you standing in the way of us telling this
story it can be you know it’s so important for people to know the truth
of this disease and he told us about his dad and how he
had suffered in the war and of course he blamed every American and we just then
started to build very consciously a different kind of relationship of
listening and understanding and and I just said you know we have to be a work
family we have to be you know a team to tell this story so I went off to
Thailand to shoot something else for this project and he actually called me
and said there’s someone that you can photograph at the hospital we don’t know
if he’s going to live but his family has given permission for you to be present
to see the doctor’s work and save his life
and so without that trust I mean you know it’s not just the trust of the
person on the other side of the camera but with everyone that you work with
that is critical to telling a story in a meaningful way you know so it seemed to make sense even
just visually to continue to think about identity because this young man robbed
of his and and then so this is a story for Geographic about this transplant KT
Stubblefield at a very young age tried to commit suicide and destroyed about a
third of her face she was given another opportunity at life thanks to a young
woman who passed and her grandmother allowed a full face transplant I was
actually told not to photograph the donor and so I thought well hmm actually
one doesn’t think much at a moment like this one just reacts and I thought this
this face is no longer the donor this is a completely unattached not just tissue
but identity it has its own identity and so it is in this no-man’s land
clearly the doctors and nurses and the assembled medical team felt this kind of
odd moment as well everyone was quiet thoughtful as the young lady snapped
these two image in this level and then they picked it up and put it on Katie
and 18 hours later she had a new idea so you were told not to take this
photograph actually it’s told not to take well not to photograph the donors
identity well what is this if not the essence of identity this is the identity
but it’s not it is no longer on the so this is this is a this is an
in-between state and and I think such an unusual and kind of magical suspended
unique moment I know that the photo editor on this project great work and
getting her mission to use this photograph so who was it a struggle to
get it used I believe there was a great deal of conversation around this image
yes what what were the editorial reservations if you if you can tell us
those you know unfortunately photographers at Geographic are not as
much a part of those conversations as we used to so they cannot work details
because I wasn’t present but I do believe that there was concern that it’s
just it’s disturbing at some level and and awe inspiring it thoughtful look on
your well I think well I’m interested in evidence of identity so I think later on
we’ll talk more about about that yeah it’s a remarkable
a remarkable photograph well but is that is like evidence of I know if that’s
what is this an evidence also or is it something else because its identity
within the context of a moment well I work on facial recognition so one of the
things that I’m very interested in the visual language of faces and and so I
mean for me is you know I’m interested in contact so I think it for me it’s
part of a visual field right now this photograph belongs to a kind of a visual
field of new imagery that we’re getting not only of facial recognition
technology but also possibilities through science technology to change how
we have how we appear and lots of different motivations around that so something perhaps more conventional then
what is this so an assignment to find imagery that would help us understand
the moment of death that challenges when when so this is these folks are standing
at the curb of road where a young man died the son of the two young folks who
are who have their John’s chest and the mom Deanna
said she works for a transplant organization this young man’s tissues
and Oregon saved multiple lives and made multiple lives better so she feels that
her son is dead and she’s a peace with that but the dad says no I’m gonna doubt
that just put your hand on this chest and you will feel his heart so you
brought them all together yes I did absolutely come across these people
standing on the side of the road doing this ritual oh this moment absolutely I
called Deana and with the help of colleague at Geographic who has this
great website that promotes organ donation and asked her if she thought
everyone who received her son’s tissues would come to this seat scene will come
to the place where he died and it was really a remarkable experience for
everyone so you know it’s not just a photograph it’s it’s the transformative
power of physical presence in a specific place that was the best and most amazing
part of the day okay that’s an entirely different vein let’s then look so story about zoonotic disease this
child is taking a monkey arm and a Gambian rat that to market and these are
animals that are very very sort of known to to carry disease that impacts human
so and then you can see that the impact of monkey pox in the next frame of this
young man intro there you know he contracted monkey pox from bad meat
probably picked up off the floor of the of the forest and so this is the reality
of that that he is he is suffering a great deal because of that ingesting
that meat yes so this is Vick Spitzer and he is actually holding the frozen
remains of a woman named Susan Potter he he’s the gentleman that developed the
visible human by slicing two convicts a man and a woman and reconstituting their
bodies in computer form so you could actually navigate the body so this woman
Susan Potter and her 70s came to Vick and said I want to be the next visible
human I’m gonna die in a year and he said well it was a long
conversation anyway he said after some resistance okay and then it took her 15
years before how long did you work on this story
yeah 15 years 15 years so we look 15 1-5 yes so we’ve just followed her through her
life and illnesses and her feistiness and vic actually i found to be a man of
great integrity he kept every promise to her and but he’s a man of science and he
in the end he iced her and then the next image you see you see a cross-section of
susan being rendered 1.5 micron at a time and we’ll take another number of
years to actually turn her into a computer model that anyone can navigate
we’ve gone from clinical medicine with ebola to kind of classic strange but
geeky science experiment with the visible human what are we looking at
here this looks like oh I don’t know so I live in Pittsburgh and up river in
Springdale there is the homestead of Rachel Carson
and this child is on a trampoline directly across the street from her home
and as you can see behind her there’s power plant belching noxious and toxic
pins so again I was very much influenced by Jennifer and the images that she
showed me the work that she’s doing and that she collected from Victorian times
and you know the fact that we’ve been poisoning our environment for you know a
how many years so these these next two images speak to that but in modern times
so this child and the Austria sort of fouling of the air and
in the next image family in Guatemala and the household air pollution that
they have to face there it’s household pollution actually heating with with
wood and cooking with charcoal is one of the leading causes of most serious
chronic health problems in the world so I just think it’s these these flow
nicely and powerfully hopefully to Jennifer’s work because these are
specific individuals who are suffering because of this animal activity ins in
yield control and let Jennifer set her pace here sorry yeah exactly well you’re setting up I one of the
projects that I’m working on now and one of those things is what we have to work
with a parent is is Victorian photographic pollution albums so I’m
interested in the politics of evidence and Lynn and I had a great conversation
about the history of visualization of of pollution so this is just one of the
projects I’m just showing you like four or five slides of some some projects I’m
working on so you get an idea of the kind of things that I think visual
historians are interested in on the left is a photograph from 1898 of town and
witness England which was the crucible of the Victorian chemical industry on
the right is a photograph from a nuisance Kate loosens law case in 1857
which was one of the first nuisance cases that was brought in
environmental regulation law in in the UK and it happens that this was also an
early case where photographs were used as legal exhibits in Victorian law and
it’s one of the things you can see with the photograph the materiality of it is
that even the chemical surface of the paper is affected by the chemical
surrounds so that’s that’s a project and another project is has to do with the
British filmmaker Humphrey Jennings I’m interested in in a in a project he
worked on he was a surrealist artist he was also a British filmmaker who made
documentary films and he put together a scrapbook of press clippings from the
the cover that spanned the kind of early history of industrialization he was
interested in the impact that industrialization had on emotions and
and kind of the inner landscape of the UK using images and I think he’s one of
the first it’s one of the first modern histories to tell the history of
modernization through images this is a project I’ve been working on with some
colleagues in in in Europe and on Australia who are interested in magic
lanterns and magic lantern slides and so this is this is a project looking at the
institutions that have collected images and circulated them sort of looking at
changing modes of spectatorship and viewing and the next one this is a this
is a project I have been doing some research lately on firearms and history
and law and so kind of going beyond the semantic connections between photography
and and guns sort of looking at the history of the business of technology
and camera so you know someone like Eastman Kodak was also a hunter he took
his life with a gun and there are a lot of interesting connections between the
technologies of both of these industries so we think of them as separate but
actually they were really connected both at the level of the manufacturer of
triggers and optics and beltline assemblies and and all of that
especially in the 19th century this is a project the evidence of identity project
we just this was about the this is a project
looking at the the role of photographs as evidence in court cases so lawyers
don’t really like to judges don’t really like to create new categories of
evidence and so photographs had to enter into existing categories this is a case
so it’s a case from the 1870s where photographs were used as evidence of
identity in an imposture case and what we’re seeing on on on your right is a
photograph that was made to try to to use photographs of two men to try to
prove that they were the same person by showing that the diameter of their
irises was the same so it’s before Francis Galton was developing a
composite photography and it’s a very interesting example of how you know in
this case photographic experts were on both sides of that debate and then this
is another project looking at the entanglements of photography and law on
the left is a print as a it’s from the it’s from the graphic it’s from an
illustrated newspaper showing a prisoner being it’s an artist rendition of a
photo of a prisoner being photographed in jail and so thinking about
photography as a detective medium a lot of times scientific scientists talked
about photography being a detective medium also and so on the newspaper in
the newspaper in the pages of the newspaper there would be stories about
photographic detective detection of murderers and thieves and so on as well
as as coverage of some of the the news of the first common photographs of a
comet other elusive phenomena so these kind of the talk was overlapping so
these these are just as we were as I was talking as Lynn and I were talking about
things you know I I work on on sort of context of photography I’ve deliberately
selected images that aren’t iconic and that’s because I think there’s been a
you know a lot about some of the iconic images and yet there are just lots of
images out there and we need to know more about and we need to know more
about the work they do in society and how they circulate and how they’re used
and what their meanings are so I tend to be
I tend to try to avoid talk about the essence of photography because it really
is so polysemic and it’s there’s so much contestation around it that’s what’s
really interesting to me so this is this is a one of the first daguerreotype
photographs by de Guerre street scene on the boulevard it’s is very active street
but we don’t really see that many people in it we see the outlines of someone
shining someone’s shoes and yet we can see in the next in the next image this
is a print from exactly the same time by a by a French artist it’s a lithograph
at Theodore Laura say who’s who’s imagining here what the title is
daguerreotype mania and it’s just picturing what the world would look like
in the future with daguerreotype and so even though you know photography hadn’t
really started yet we can see in the in in the print and you can look it on
online if you want to see the the print and more detail aerial photography the
photograph of the Sun in the top left you’ve got you can’t really see them but
you can see the gallows those are painters so it’s anticipating that
famous saying that painting is dead so he’s got also mass culture people lining
up to have their portrait taken on the back is a train those are cameras so
he’s really got the whole idea of the industrialization of photography and its
commodification in 1839 so well that from the beginning it looks like we also
had issues of authenticity and deception I mean the wonderful daguerreotype you
just showed is that the person getting their shoeshine I mean that’s sort of
famous because it’s a photograph the first photograph of somebody by
themselves and of course as you just pointed out in fact it’s a very crowded
street it’s just the artifact of how long it took to expose those kinds of
pictures so we value it for something as a heart as a historical artifact or
something that is in fact not yeah and that’s that’s a point that a lot of
these artifacts the when the context changes we see different things in them
and we we value them for different reasons so
this next one is I selected this one this is this is the Golden Record which
was which Carl Sagan and his team at JPL put together this this record of images
to send up on Voyager 2 in 1977 so they were trying to make contact with
intelligent life in outer space and and gathered a hundred 118 images
photographs of a lot of them were drawn from National Geographic they were drawn
from a lot of them were drawn from newspapers Life magazine and others it
was like a picture postcard to intelligent life if they happen to come
across this record which was attached to the Voyager 2 and it was kind of
reminiscent of that assyrian king who rebuilds babylon and who put who put
praises into the bricks as it was being built for posterity sort of what – and i
think it raises the whole project raises questions about you know where do these
images go he sees them whoever is going to see them and in this case they
weren’t really sure they didn’t even know if art martians had eyes or what
but they had this idea and they’re there it’s interesting for what’s not in there
there’s not they’re not photographs of war poverty
it’s a cheerful image of the earth earth as we would like it to be yeah so these
are just pairs of images showing on the left is from 1865 it’s a it’s from the
Illustrated London News and it’s a depiction of a scene at the meeting of
the British Association for the Advancement of science which was an
organization that was trying to bring together scientists from different
disciplines and to really promote the popularization of science so they’re
there they’re gathered together looking at the projection of natural specimens
onto a screen and on the right is a it’s a photograph by a photographer the title
of it is the information revolution by Lewis pythons I’m not sure if I’m
saying his name correctly but it’s showing the media monitors around a
single individual just showing how the modes of transmission of these
photographs have changed so just this is this is just a couple of
images to kind of maybe stimulate some discussion about data so on the left is
a photograph of lightening taken in 1895 by Arthur Clayton for the Meteorological
Society and on the right is it some data visual data depicting some of them the
mapping of Mars and in both cases even though they’re made at different times
in different places with different kind of media there are teams of people
behind them so it’s partly – also connecting to your the point you raised
earlier about storytelling that behind these images the the production of them
isn’t as seamless as it might appear there are lots of there’s a lot of work
behind creating these these these images and some of this work by this is a
sociologist named anna forte zzz done a lot of work on the depiction of Mars the
Mars rover project and this is just so 1905 at Lowell Observatory in Arizona
the first successful photographs of Mars were taken and they’re there they are on
the left a big plate of mini Mars and that the problem was and in nineteen Oh
in 1907 the Wall Street Journal published a story it’s lead story was
that that the first successful photographs of Mars had been taken there
was a lot of interest in whether or not they proved the existence of canals
canals on Mars the problem what was though that getting it onto the page was
by large in the Martian photographs you lost the definition of the canals so
they lost their evidentiary value so many newspapers actually created these
drawings to try to convey the excitement of it so here you have the the angel
with the Kodak camera taking a photograph of what is actually a drawing
but underneath the caption it says a photograph of Mars
no it’s a drawing so just problems of translation and is it this one yeah and
also just photography as a as a subject of experiment and mystery on the left
ferdinand herder and vera drew field were inventors they were also industrial
chemists and they invented this this instrument for estimating photo exposure
and so just and on the on the right is it strip fields daughter Mae so she’s a
teenager in this picture and in his notebook are photographs of her helping
him with his experiments as he’s trying to test the actin ometer so she’s it’s
also just part of the sort of social relations behind the production of
photography and just have a couple more yeah because we’re in New York I also
wanted to mention there’s this this this photographer who’s a scientist Philip
Cavell who won a lot of awards for his photographs in the 1930s he he made
photographs for the Museum of Natural History in London and he he created a
method for doing ballistics research on guns but he also
made lots of photographs for magazines and I think that that phrase in the ad
that he did for Waterman ‘s these amazing photomicrographs tell their own
story it’s part of the idea that’s attached to photography for a long time
photography is the pencil of nature these are photograph these are both
lantern slides on the left from the 1890s and on the right from the early
1900s and we might not necessarily think of these as being scientific photographs
but I think you know really thinking about a lot of the work that Lynn’s been
doing and their photographs are you that they are the one on the left is evidence
of work in the alkali industry and on the right of the brutal exploitation of
of rubber plantation workers and so on the left is it’s actually a drawing
reproduced by means of the lantern slide showing alkali worker gassed by chlorine
and on the right are two children and the in the rubber plantation business in
the in the Congo Free State in 1890s their hand limbs might be chopped off if
they didn’t supply the represent number of the represent amount of rubber so
it’s I think as part of that kind of contest over imagery and this was there
was a I don’t know how many people might have seen an article tell us about this
because it’s an interesting editorial decision that is itself an interesting
editorial commentary on the nature of news photography explain explain to us
what you what you’re alluding to so last week The Guardian newspaper reported on
its editorial decision to really reflect more on the photographs that accompany
at stories about climate change and they said that you know there’s been an idea
that photographing including photographs of the polar bears on the ice are
another and also some of the the big data visualization have their place that
they’re worried that they’re not showing enough of the human impact of climate
change and so sometimes stories about heat you know how hot it is will be
accompanied by photographs of tourists at the beach trying to cool off so they
said this is this is a an intentional decision that they’re making to change
the visual field of this story it’s interesting because it’s a it’s an
editorial decision and it’s an editorializing decision it’s like the
Guardian which is made it’s a wonderful newspaper and but it’s made very clearly
climate change reform as a central editorial tenant and they clearly came
to the realization that they could print as many pictures of heartsick forlorn
polar bears as they wanted we honestly in the end apparently don’t care so what
they need to do to marshal our support is to start picturing us as victims so
it’s sort of news and not news editorializing with images have you ever
editorialize with an image I mean do you try to stack the deck there so that I’m
gonna walk away ready to give money to the Environmental Defense Fund or save
the whales well I think one has to be very clear about who you’re working for
and with and you know there there’s a work I do as an activist and there’s
work I do as a journalist and that’s why having integrity and the work is so
important you have to know where those lines are and and I think it takes a lot
of thoughts and consideration but one thing that you suddenly is that nobody
is is is is be moved any longer by the watching images of the struggling
animals so let’s do struggling humans well they nobody seems to care about the
struggling humans either so I think that’s part of the conversation is are
we so saturating I mean this is not an old conversation but I mean this is an
old conversation that were saturating the world with imagery of suffering for
various reasons and and people are becoming immune to those images and
therefore it takes more and more extreme messaging to move people to action and
so I think this is where it gets very complicated because then photographers
writers editorial boards are faced with this conversation do we consciously
become you know take step over that line into activism because the world is
it clearly at a critical in this I’d like to step over that line myself into
a question so we are talking here about photography as a way of evidence or like
facts but I think photography has also been used like an ideological artifact I
remember recently actually the National Geographic issued like this big
additional kind of saying sorry for the way they’re portrayed it non-white
cultures basically all around the world so it that makes you reflect on how
actually factual is photography if it’s not editor editorial like from scratch
like from the moment you decide to portrait something as the way you
portrayed it the same thing with writing I think so I don’t know I think I want
to hear your thoughts on on that on is there actually a line between
photography as a fact or it’s just every photography bias which you think is
something we will touch more on in our next copley but I just feel like it’s I
don’t know I think it’s important to have that conversation that’s the line I
think it’s a very very good clip there’s a line even photography by its very
nature presents itself willingly or no as a fact you believe the evidence of
your eyes and of course the evidence of your eyes
are not necessarily that Lynn what what would you respond to that question
well I think that a photograph is always at risk of not being the truth you know
I mean it’s the truth of the moment it’s the truth of what you witness at the
time you can’t have all the integrity in the world and do great research but
you’re only there for one moment and in in somebody’s life and so you see that
current truth but you bring it to the process all of the by
of who you are your you know your your ethnicity your language your gender your
birth story you you know all of the societal mores that you embrace or deny
and so we are imperfect filters as communicators I think that’s why you
have to work so hard to be informed before you go into the field to document
any issue person-environment but that’s why we need an educated
populace who can look critically at images and we need to be educated about
deciphering imagery and that’s why I think the work that Jennifer is doing is
super important because we cannot always we you just can’t look at the surface
you must look deeper well and increasingly you have to sort of do a
pixel-by-pixel analysis to determine the authenticity of an image Jennifer you
study photography as evidence I mean how do you respond to that question yeah
well I think it’s a great question and one of the reasons why I think that the
protein turists me about photographs is that they do seem sometimes carry this
sort of Authority and yet you know again and again we see their their authority
undermined or challenged or critiqued and so it’s the it’s the debates over
that that really really interests me but one I think one example of that and
there’s some great work on National Geographic photography and also on some
of the ideologies behind you know the photographs in colonial classification
and racial classification I’m thinking about some work by Jane Lydon who’s just
written of a great book on photography and humanitarianism and Empire she’s
working on the Australian contacts but one of the things one of the well one
example we could we could talk about there is that in UNESCO and in 1950 I
think it was came up with this idea of bringing together an exhibition of human
right and so it there was behind it this idea
of photography as a universal language and they were gathering together
photographs of war dead of families of housing you know across the world and
finding examples of photographs that seemed to show similar activities across
different places and it was part of this idea of partly it was it was coming
after the world war of trying to figure out what people shared in common but one
of the things you know looking back at and what’s really clear is that these
were also about a certain kind of imposition of cultural values on this
story so there wasn’t really a lot of universal language connecting all of
them it was completely ideological but it was but in the moat so you had this
this kind of tension between a and I think I think that yeah I think that
there’s a if these are social socially constructed so that’s why we we can’t
really stop thinking about photographs at their moment of origin but but you
know what happens when they go out in the world and what kinds of motivations
you know bring them into the world to begin with that’s that’s really what’s
behind it so let’s go back into a set of images Lynne if we can you know quickly
walk through these what are we looking at here these are really sort of pairs
yes here’s of images and actually this speaks to the conversation we’re just
having about you know puddi doing a story that is in balance with whatever
the reality is this is a story about cannabis for Geographic and about so
this little girl actually had a lifetime of seizures and was compromise
completely incapacitated until her mom started giving her cannabis oil and she
literally just like has a completely different life now so the the story
ended up being you know really about the cannabis that can be addictive and
silent and derail a life of an intelligent young woman and to know like
using her body to sell this weed and and a child whose life is saved by cannabis
the next story the next pairing is done for the gender issue and this young lady
on the swing is OD nano Diaz was born male and is young trans child so OD is
his female has been female in her mind and will be in her body from there from
very very young 2 years old so this is really about society and how we treat
people who we perceive as different in Jamaica this trans woman actually fears
for her life every day so she’s been like stabbed and shocked and had a
machete hack at her face and again a portrait and you know I think a portrait
like lifts itself out of the realm of journalism it might be good research
that gets you to the person but then you know the this is not trying to be a
documentary image this is an image that is making a statement about brutality
and this is a child who’s living on the autism spectrum and I thought this
little boy photographed in a special school in America where he has the
benefit of this sensory room so different than the next child that is in
the x-ray room of a hospital in Thailand whose blown up as they say in by a
landmine so he’s Burmese he’s a caring child
and you know these it’s just by like where were you born what kind of life
will you have to and and you know I think the photography one of the great parts of photography is that you have
body language as a strand of communication and so you know I’m always
looking for that sort of beautiful grace within the frame and within the
photograph to pull someone in and and get them to want to know more about the
situation story about vanishing languages
vanishing language as you said yes vanishing languages yeah this is Johnny
Hill he is the last one of the last speakers of the Jim wave a language he
lives in Arizona and the next so you know trying to figure out how to make
language visible was challenging I would either start with the word or a
significant phrase in another language and look for an image that resonated or
go the other direction just immerse myself in a culture look for beautiful
imagery and then find a word that would speak to that image and what word does
the picture of the child represent oh this is shot in tuba in Siberia and new
babies are called my little goat translation obviously so that’s the word
that we used under this image you know that precious moment fragility at the
beginning of life it’s very tender so not so tender
the next image this is actually Columbine I think again jennifer and I
have interests in these areas of it’s actually interesting listening to
you talk about this gender and the language you use so so difference but
you know this is a kind of evidence picture this is a scene of the crime
really even though was shot recently if this is
this is where Dylan Klebold and a friend killed their classmates and this next
image is sue his mom she is in the process of figuring out how to take this
great tragedy and help people understand that it is ty that act of violence is
tied to a mental health issue an issue that really hasn’t been paid attention
to is she who is she with here Lynne she is with a woman who was that who is the
child of a teacher that was most likely shot by her son the next image is Sandy Hook in my
research I learned that the flagpole of this original school was the only item
that was not destroyed I’m actually not sure that’s still true but they
completely ground the original school to dust and rebuilt so but this this symbol
of the flag of the American flag you know our country that cannot seem to
solve this problem of gun violence I just felt that it believed it’s a
practical matter if I may just ask as a matter of craft I’d like to know how you
got this image I mean where how did you get this angle on this where were you
standing so I was in town for about a day or two and I just kept driving back
to the school in different times of day to see the light and I would walk around
and I saw this shadow start to encroach on the pavement there and so I would
just came back to kind of hunt that the shadow you know and just stood on the
roof the car the roof of your car down the lake five foot tall to line up I
just wanted it to be just right and you know and then the wind would stop and
then it will start again and then I would you know so once you see the
potential of something I mean I just felt I needed to stay with it and and to
feel that place and was it is it a haunted place I mean
you know it it is not without energy there and this issue this image excuse
me so this this each of the hands of a young man who is a psychopath
there’s a gentleman doing a lot of research into the brains of young
offenders really truly violent psychopathic inventors and a facility
that houses these young people so he’s holding a chart that shows his behavior
his violent behavior over the course of you know a week and and in this
institution they’re trying to change the behavior of these young folks using all
kinds of behavior modification reward systems and believing that the neural
pathways can be altered the neural pathways that have to do with violence so I’m looking at these incredibly
gorgeous photographs and thinking I just couldn’t do that you know feeling like
they couldn’t and I’m thinking that the kind of photos that I used to take when
I was taking when I was in the position of needing to take photos for my own
work were more like the documentary photos that that that you were showing
us from Victorian times and and I would like to you know today in journalism
unfortunately with the situation you know the NatGeo
situation is atypical and often reporters are expected to writers are
expected to shoot their own photos and we wind up doing more documenting than
we do sort of communicating emotions well so I’m wondering just in the few
minutes that we have left what kind of practical advice do you both have for
for those of us who you know want to try to do better with
our photos but we wind up just sort of doing basic documentation Jennifer how would you answer that
question well I have a question for you I guess I look what are you the
photographs for that you’re thinking of right well that is a kind of deep
question as what is a photograph for and photographs have multiple purposes
you know honestly in a digital environment really the purpose of a
photograph is to draw the reader in but we want to do more than that you know we
want to we we we want to try to communicate some emotion and we also
want to document something important to the story we want to be able to
communicate to the viewer what something looks like and ideally also what
something feels like photographer well we’ll probably have more to say on this
issue yeah but I okay well I think in terms of if I could well in terms of
looking at photographs for the for the news I don’t think even though we call
photographs evidence there really it’s very much part of the visual
storytelling so I think one of the things that would be great to see is in
relationship to a lot of these stories to have I mean Linz Linz examples are so
unusual in terms of how a lot of photographs appear in the newspaper I
think so if we look at there there are a lot of you know because hers are very
distinctive so if you could think about the way that epidemics get reported a
lot of times it’s photographs of people in hazard suits that they become this
kind of a trope and so I think you know I I feel like I’ve been thinking more
about interpretation and how we can you know maybe maybe be more aware of how we
may be kind of sometimes a bit lazy and how we’re thinking about photographs
illustrating a story I need to be more more reflective about how the images are
working in relationship to the words not just drawing attention to
their stance making an important point because many of us who were not
photographers by talent or profession are stuck with taking pictures in the
journalistic context because the new search algorithm demands an image at the
top of the story it’s just how it works so you have to have an image big
borrowed or stolen mm-hmm Lynn how would you answer Dan’s question you know I
think if you click twice to this image of his Geoffrey’s holding the autopsy
and image of her daughter it’s so powerful because it really if you go
click to down it’s the next image Jennifer brought this this photograph I
think says kind of answers the question it is evidence she’s holding evidence it
is a stark and disturbing photograph of her daughter’s body and yet it’s a
photograph of this mom and her emotional state in what is appears to be her home
so it is a storytelling image of a woman holding an artifact and evidence and
it’s kind of the blend it’s the perfect blend of everything we’ve been talking
about and you know sometimes I think we we try to be the two artful and we
forget that sometimes you just need the facts you know you just need to be raw
and you just need to put the the you know the truth of what you see right in
that moment out there and and I and that’s why I love this image and I love
that you included it because the the shock of that child and how her body has
been you know harmed is is important for us to see we have to see they’re also
are they not Jennifer and Linda very images that
we were prevented from seeing even though parents wanted to show them of
their children who were killed in this incident they were considered more than
we should have to bear or something Jennifer well it’s the context to the
next the next screen yeah so a lot of parents were after if this is these are
well I think what in relationship to the Newtown shooting the shooting at Sandy
Hook there was in the state of Connecticut there’s a debate over
freedom of information so journalists had wanted to see the photographs that
were taken at the crime scene and there were there was a lot of debate about
whether or not those should be released to the public and in the end the
Connecticut General Assembly voted that with the exception of one voted that
they shouldn’t be and I think I have in the next slide the some of the comments
that were made at the time but the reasons why they shouldn’t be so a lot
of the families didn’t want them released and so you know and one of the
and there were a lot of these are some of the quotes from the Senators in the
in the General Assembly saying you know what who would want to see these anyway
these are awful photographs there was one who said you know I think there’s a
bigger issue here and that has to do with you know who ought to see them
these are photographs that were taken by police officers and they represent a
crime they’re part of a crime scene so it raises a question that’s you know
it’s not easy to answer are these photographs family albums or they
privacy they’ve subject privacy concerns or are they things that the public needs
to see because if we think about the history of social movements around
atrocity photographs a lot of time or atrocity sometimes photographs have
mobilized public opinion around it we happen to have see and gun violence
disparities around that and and racial disparities around that what
gun violence so so that they didn’t Jeffries is it’s an example of archival
exposure of showing photographs that’s from an autopsy photo that she she
stands in front of you know whenever they’re debates about guns often she’ll
stand there with the photograph of her her daughter because it’s not the kind
of photograph that people will normally see in the newspaper so we’re drawing
near the end of our time and I’d like to ask a variation of Dan’s question to
each of you which is you know what’s my job as a journalist when it comes to
photography what is the thing that I should be doing then what’s my job
oh your job is to decide for yourself what you’re trying to say and who you’re
speaking to and who’s in front of the event you know I think all of the lines
are and but the essence is to be as educated informed and considered as
possible and and to dig deep because it’s so easy to stay on the surface of a
situation and and every situation is very complicated so I you know I don’t
think it’s a black and white thing it’s it’s it’s not it’s it’s more complicated
than ever and so you know you have to decide that’s part of being a
professional and part of taking it seriously and and and I think one of the
really delightful parts of this presentation that
Jennifer put together is these last four or five pairings because they show you
how complicated some of these decisions are you know that last one we were just the
vanishing languages how do you depict the vanishing of languages and on the
other hand we have all of this we’re really we’re learning a new language in
a way together we’re learning in the new language as a visual visual languages so
that could that kind of pairing I mean I think for reporters it’s that the story
is is the changing ways we visualize the world I mean I feel like you know that’s
another dimension of reporting that we could be talking about about more an
answer to that question and I could not think of a more apt way to close except
to say this is taking place under the most difficult circumstances
that’s spanning thousands of miles and centuries of photography and enormous
reservoirs of goodwill from Lynn from you Jennifer from our audience both
visible and invisible and I just thank you all of you for what
you’ve done here together tonight thank you

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