New Internationalist Issue 279
The material that follows has been provided by New Internationalist
From this month's editor
There's been controversy on the editors' floor of this office ever since I published a photo of myself in this space in my issue last year on an African Village . I'd arranged for the village and its people to be captured by the camera of our old friend Claude Sauvageot and he naturally took a few pictures of me at work along the way.
You will perhaps forgive me for having chosen the one which showed me in the most flattering light. My co-workers, however, were unmerciful. 'The first off-the-shoulder soft porn in the NI,' said one. 'He thinks he's bloody Harrison Ford,' said another. More woundingly still: 'Who is this?', implying that the care-ravaged, slouching apology for a man she saw crawling into his desk every day bore no relation whatsoever to this artificial creation of a world-class portrait photographer. The troupe of Hollywood beauticians I took with me to Africa just to make this photo possible were of course excluded from the frame.
Since this is a photographic issue dedicated to documentary truth I thought the record should be set straight. Here I reproduce again the offending photo, purely in the interests of showing you the hideousness of my crime. And along-side it is the unvarnished truth: a hitherto censored photo of the journalist at work in that village in Burkina Faso. An unsavoury character: sweaty, unshaven and with the most deeply furrowed brow in human history.
The camera does not lie, they say. But we always edit and censor the truth it provides. Even the greatest photographers are continually discarding hundreds of pictures that do not show their subjects quite as they would wish - or that do not meet their own artistic standards. For even in the highly political areas explored by this magazine photography is an art. A visual magazine on resistance around the world could very easily have turned into a parade of rather tedious documentary photos showing demonstrators waving placards. Instead the protesters and their stories have been brought to life by the eye and appreciation of an artist for a different angle, a quality of light, a special expression.
This is the first photographic issue we have produced since we started printing the magazine in full colour, a decision we originally took partly because we felt monochrome images, for all their power, were giving no sense of the cultural vibrancy and sheer bright colours of the South. Ironically one of the main spin-offs of full-colour printing is that it makes high-quality reproduction of black-and-white photographs much more possible - and, paradoxically, black-and-whites can still often seem more 'realistic', somehow more appropriate to social documentary. It is noticeable that all the Southern photographers who have contributed to this issue have chosen to work in black and white.
This is also probably one of the most positive magazines we have ever produced. We are always keen to publish stories which show people standing up for themselves, organizing against the forces which bear down on them. But this issue has been a glorious excuse to focus on nothing but those examples of active resistance. Gathering these pictures, hearing these stories, I have felt my own spirits rise - the world may be in trouble but, hey, the fight-back has begun.
for the New Internationalist Co-operative
©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996
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