The exercise asks us to look at the work of one of the practitioners discussed in this project. Write a short analysis of one of their projects or the practitioner’s overall approach. Comment on how appropriate you think their creative responses are. What is your impression of the evolving nature of photojournalism?
I began by looking for Alastair Thains British Marines portraits, I found a couple of images within other pages but was deeply disappointed to find that not only did the imperial war museum not have any of the images on their website ,but, Alastair Thain himself has allowed his domain to lapse and therefore I was unable to track down any more than low(ish) resolution copies of three of his British Marine portraits. It would appear that Alastair Thain has partially allowed himself to be deleted from digital culture by allowing his website to lapse and therefore be removed.
I then went over to look at Tim Hetherington and his similar, but much closer, work where he also photographed military personnel. Hetherington reminds me of Evan Wrights Book ‘Generation Kill’ (Wright, 2004) which followed him as he documented the lives of a group of marines that he had been embedded with during the Invasion of Iraq.
Tim Hetherington work on ‘Sleeping Soldiers’ (Hetherington, 2010) looks beyond the cultural stereotype of the hard bitten stoic faced soldier and makes the viewer realise that these soldier are indeed people. These portraits show the vulnerability of the individuals and that they too face pain, fatigue, and boredom.
Hetheringtons work on sleeping soldiers combined in with the video of their day to day activities shows the old military adage of hurry up and wait. The long periods of quiet before the short periods of action and fear, by using the video overlay he provides the viewer with an almost dream state in which we see the sleeping thoughts and dreams of the soldiers.
His quietness in taking the portraits shows an intuitive and compassionate side as Hetherington catches the soldiers at their most vulnerable. He does not play on their vulnerability but allows the viewer into the world of these soldiers without exploiting them. The techniques used give the viewer an idea of what Hetherington was trying to capture and portray; he is only let down by the simple editing and layout error where video was reversed during one part of the creating of the video. Perhaps Hetherington preferred the soldier to be pointing left of the frame rather than right.
Watching the video, you are left to make up our mind as the video progresses, is it clouds or smoke floating through the frame, each provides a different interpretation to the “dream” within the video. Again cleverly, he allows us to see the faces of the non-combatants, the people whom to soldiers are having to fight around and attempt to keep on the side of, to gain their trust in the long term, but alas we are only given a brief amount of access to these people before the focus shift back onto the American personel.
For this piece of work, I think the techniques used and the composition of the images and the view work together very well, at first you are brought into the world of sleeping soldiers and by the end of the view you are as frightened and worried as they are, as they find one of comrades killed while on patrol. You get the closeness in which these soldiers work and how they rely on each other when out in the field to survive both mentally and physically.
Certainly using the smart phone has allowed Hetherington to get close up and personal with the sleeping individuals and also to capture the reality of action on the battlefield and it ties in closely with the film ‘Restrepo’ (Hetherington, Junger 2010) that Hetherington made with Sebastian Junger. The film opens up the enclosed lives of the soldiers as they spent a year and three months in Korgengal, a valley in Afghanistan. Hetherington never intrudes, instead using the camera as a witness, capturing the soldiers as they deal with battling insurgents and trying to win over the public.
It flies in the face of the CNN war journalism of the first gulf war, instead of snappy shots of missiles homing in to targets and video of smart bombs going to air ducts, we are presented with the reality of war, that real people are putting their lives in danger to fulfil the instructions that they have been given. Heatherington here, gave the real rather than the manufactured and very much in line with Ritchin, he gave another side to the story, providing something which was missing. It ties into the 24-hour news cycle and goes beyond, fixing the story not only in the point in time, but in the way the story is being told. As people research more, and seek more information about what is going in, work such as this is a key part in the evolution of photojournalism. It shows that clear and concise work can be produced with a smartphone, but it will only work in the hands of someone who can finesse the gathered information into a readable/viewable format.
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