Monday, August 01, 2022

The New York Times has an interesting article about the revelation that Herman Heukels, who took most of the famous photographs of Jews getting ready to be transported from Amsterdam to work or death camps, was a Nazi.

With this knowledge, we now understand that he intended to demean the Jews whose photos he was taking. He didn't take any photos of the police rounding them up, for example. 

In some images, the Jews' dignity shine through anyway.


But this changes the interpretation of the photos.

Janina Struk, author of the 2005 book “Photographing the Holocaust: Interpretations of the Evidence,” said that in the postwar period, photos taken by bystanders, perpetrators and victims were “all kind of mixed together,” and hardly anyone asked who had shot the photos or for what purposes.

In recent years, she added, there has been a greater emphasis on contextualizing the images, explaining how they were made, so that viewers have a better understanding of what they’re looking at — and so people can make better ethical choices about how to present them.

I wish the New York Times cared this much about the context of photos from Gaza taken by modern antisemites.

Here are two photos from last year's war in Gaza that are obviously staged, as I pointed out then:

The New York Times also hires freelance photographers in Gaza who have every incentive to show Israel in a bad light and ignore Hamas war crimes like shooting rockets from populated areas. The NYT is highlighting obviously staged photos as well, like this one, with a bassinet that somehow landed right side up, meters  away from the demolished building that supposedly housed it - and without a speck of dust on it. The photographer was also amazingly lucky to find a photogenic, sad boy who just happened to be walking right in front of it, but to the side, so we could see both. 


Or this one, where elderly women climbed over dangerous rubble where they could fall and break their hips so they could sit (one on a convenient plastic chair) and look sad in this supposedly candid shot:




Seeing the beach in the background, this airstrike may have been at the Shati camp, where Israel said Hamas leaders were meeting - but the New York Times won't mention that. 
Context is everything. Photographers stage their photos and direct the subjects as actors when they won't get caught. They gather ahead of time in likely trouble spots but ensure that the other dozens of photographers crowding around are never in the shot. They choose the ones that tell the story they want to tell and don't submit the ones that contradict them. The freelancers provide the background information that is believed implicitly by the editors. 

Is there any moral difference between publishing context-free photos from people who hated Jews in the 1940s and those from people who hate Jews today? 

The last paragraph of the article about the Nazi photos is the best summary of the topic, and one that fair media would be attuned to if they cared about context and objectivity.

Struk added, “We need to move away from the idea that a photograph is just a window on the world. It isn’t. It’s a very edited version of what the photographer chose to photograph.”  

 



Buy the EoZ book, PROTOCOLS: Exposing Modern Antisemitism  today at Amazon!

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