Saturday, September 30, 2006


It's a bit of a plague really; in many ways the UK and other western countries seem more lawless than previously they were. On the other hand we seem more than ever mindful about arbitrary legal requirements.

It would be strange, in this context, not to mention Richard North. After running up against his local constabulary on several occasions, confronting the press over Qanagate, and his fellow bloggers over their shallowness, he seems to have attracted the ire of the Daily telegraph over borrowing from their photo archive. Actually the second point may have some relevance to the latter point, as the Telegraph were thoroughly narked not to say rattled when their Qana coverage came under fire.

On the subject of photos, I recently decided to include some on this blog, for the simple reason that I realised how easy they were to load and had decided a while back that there was no significant reason to spurn them any longer. I had originally imposed a purdah on photos on my blog(s) because I felt that I needed just to write, without the distraction and easy option of photos. This self-imposed discipline seemed reasonable for a while but became defunct a while back- hence I explored the pictorial option.

Now, it would seem, just as I get into the picture biz, the biz is coming under scrutiny.

To me, in a world where the rapine media exists, pictures abound and visual, oral and written communication fuse seamlessly, pictures are ten a'penny and effectively worthless. The Telegraph may huff and puff but they are just fantastically out of touch- every Tom Dick or Harry has a digital camera and the capacity to bring forward pictures without training. This is becoming more and more a reality everywhere, not just in the West. It doesn't even need a digital, either. I was really proud of what I achieved in Kenya with disposables. I have other photos from time spent in Spain, and I aim one day to get out and about in my favourite Prague locations to get some really special ones- all will sooner or later be freely available on the web.

On the other hand such is the legalism of the western mind, pictorial evidence is more and more important to affirm the valdity of any truth claim. Why, for example, did the US DoD see fit to publish this photo of "detainee salad"? (a picture used by Claudia Rosett to illustrate a recent visit to Guantanmo):

When Mark Steyn, another participant in the media Guan'mo junket, mentioned the L-z-boy chairs of interrogational horror of detainees there, I took the opportunity of a link to have a look at some examples. Here is one, much nicer than what I'm sitting on right now:

Of course this need for pictures is one which the press have long pandered to. I remember the Telegraph introducing colour photos. Think about the glossy magazine approach which prolonged the interest of newspaper readers in the advancing consumerism of the 80's and 90's. Now they have a smorgasbord of photography to offer, and the prevalence of photography is proving difficult for them, since where we are saturated with photographs on the net they are having difficulty at doing something- anything- better than the net.

I have to admit I find the legal wranglings over Guanatanamo difficult to follow- it's not my legal system, for one thing. That's largely unimportant, however, as it would be the same in the British court system. It's interesting that alongside the chicanery of legal principle we find the need to be so pictorial in our approach- think about the immensely visual approach to war crimes, to bombings, to torture. In an age of shifty words we rely more and more on photos. To me they are stimulus, on occasion; best when witty and ironic, when they cast a shade of humour across some reasoned thoughts. I imposed my photo purdah so I wouldn't lose sight of that. It seems the Telegraph lost their reason with their humour- and their readership.

Now wouldn't it be ironic if I had to remove one of these photos- hardly likely to happen, I think.

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