One of the Book Fair's themes this year is Image and a hot topic of discussion at Globala Torget has been the image as a means of power in foreign reporting. We have done seminars on seminars, book signings and film screenings. Who is responsible for what images convey and can one justify all images?
On the second day of the book fair, award-winning DN photographer Paul Hansen and Rebecka Katz Thor, PhD in aesthetics, participate in a seminar on the power of the image. Hansen wonders what responsibility photographers have over what the image depicts, and in what context it was taken. When do you become a player in a game and what images are from an ethical perspective okay to take?
Katz Thor takes the picture of Alan Kurdi as an example, the boy who was washed up from the Mediterranean in September 2014. We all see his red shirt in front of us. The little legs. She compares with Ebba, 11 years old, the girl who died on Drottninggatan. Both children's parents asked for the pictures to stop being published, but only Ebbas did. The Western gaze makes us listen to the Swedish parents but not the Kurdish ones, says Katz Thor. There is a difference, says Hansen. To compare Alan and Ebba, one would have to move the entire war to Europe and Sweden. Instead, it is more important to talk about the context in which the image is displayed. The child on the beach became everyone's child, because we, at first, did not know who it was or why it was there. In addition, the picture was published right in time - just days after Sweden, in accordance with Reinfeldt's call, opened our hearts.
After lunch, a film was shown about men working in Ijen, the world's last manual sulfur mine on the island of Java, Indonesia. Men who every day risk their lives in the toxic sulfur gases, which destroy their backs and do not get older than 60 years. Close-ups of their red shoulders are interspersed with landscape photos of small, narrow roads where men walk in a row and carry baskets with 100 kilos of crushed sulfur in them - sulfur that gives them a wage they cannot live on. Next to a workplace, the volcano is a tourist destination. Not infrequently, tourists take selfies with the sulfur workers.
The longtime photographer Johan Persson stands in the heart of the fair's second floor, next to a wall adorned with large photographs of desert landscapes and military clothing. He sells his new book "Betraying a people", a reportage book with half pictures, half text by him and Anna Roxvall.
- We use the images as a tool to lower the threshold for a reportage book. It will be easier to absorb, a way to democratize the information, says Persson.
We ask what he as a photographer can do to contextualize the images.
- Well, he says, for example, all the people in the pictures in the book have a name. And context is not only important to keep in mind at the time of publication, but also when the interviews are done. The people in the picture must know who is taking the picture, where the picture will be published and what the purpose of it is.
- For example, I am not an aid worker, so I can not help the people I photograph, but I am a journalist and can tell their story. It is important for me that they get to know that, says Johan Persson.
Back to the seminar on the power of the image. Rebecka Katz Thor points out that all images of history must be remembered, even the unpleasant ones, but that contextless images require an incredible awareness on the part of the viewer. In addition, everyone has the right to be portrayed in a dignified manner. Therefore, photos of deceased people in particular require context, in order to prevent the people depicted from becoming identityless dead bodies.
We think of hobby photography. Instagram feeds with unknown children and old men in Southeast Asia, in Latin America, in North Africa. Which of these individuals know that they are photographed and posted on the internet?
In recent years, the demands placed on professional photographers have increased and they are now at the same level as those placed on writing journalists, says Paul Hansen. But what about social media users? What requirements are placed on us when we can publish photos of children we do not know the names of and selfies with unknown miners? Maybe we as individuals should also learn to publish ethically, and to critically examine the images that fill our news and social media feeds? Is that what is required for us to have a world where photos treat everyone with the same dignity, regardless of whether they are Kurds, Swedes or Indonesians?