Project 1 Eyewitnesses?
Photography has always possessed the ability to convince the viewer that the image presented is one of genuine reality and the account of the eyewitness is regarded as the truest account of all.
Citizen journalism has rapidly grown as a result of the mass ownership of camera phones and explosion of social media. Images found on social media sites are often seen and reported as raw, authentic, democratic, statements of truth being unearthed in the quest for equality and justice.
In circumstances where professional journalists and photographers have been unable to gain access then the role of the citizen journalist has become increasingly significant and established news agencies actively incorporate the results of citizen journalism into their documentary and news stories.
The photo images leaked by American soldiers, “documenting their own humiliating torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib’” made world headlines when released in 2004. (Bull, 2009, p119).
Currently in Syria there is a virtual government imposed media blackout resulting in heavy reliance upon citizen journalists who have contributed in their hundreds if not thousands to document the conditions experienced inside the war zone. These headlines have taken the Syrian story to the top of the world news.
These important images have surfaced where inhumane and unjust conditions might otherwise have gone unreported or at least not until after a much longer time period and for this reason they are extremely important. However to make the necessary impact the images still need to gain traction by penetrating and effectively being selected, verified as authentic and endorsed by the structures of mass media as ‘news worthy’ and effective citizen journalism is fast being incorporated as an additional channel for the mass media system.
We can ask what the impact of such images has been, by asking ourselves has the Abu Ghraib incident affected American foreign policy or the psychology and the conduct of soldiers serving on the front line? There is probably stricter training and controls for army personnel in the use of personal cameras phones whilst on duty but the question of how much impact such images and stories can ultimately have is still a relevant question and it can also be asked of the wider field of documentary photography.
However we return to the concept of the photographic image being a version of reality rather than being the reality itself. And from that standpoint all images must be analysed within a wider critical framework to establish the context and narrative and therefore it’s purpose and ultimate objective. All images are taken and distributed for some sort of purpose, for a reason or an agenda.
Bull, S (2010). Photography. Abingdon:Routledge