Monday, July 30, 2007

Creative Responsibility


It continues to surprise me how frequently the subject of 'media' arises in the common discourse of life. Sometimes the subject is well hidden in the brightly clothed assumptions of the online discussion forum.

Take, for instance, this dialog that recently was exchanged on Rangefinder Forum, concerning professional photographers who cover NFL games being required by the league to wear an 'official' photog vest adorned with overt logos advertising a particular brand of camera - in this case Canon. The question posed was whether photographers should 'boycott' the Canon brand as a form of protest. One point argued by a number of respondents was the issue of journalistic veracity and the compromise of disconnected objectivity.

Interestingly, no one suggested a boycott of the NFL.

The mere posing of these questions brings to light the fallacious basis upon which many of these assumptions rest: that commercial media, and for that matter media in general, are able to represent an infrastructure of veracious fact.

The organizational and political structure around which western media are modeled resembles that of certain aspects of European culture prior to the French Revolution. One is reminded in particular of the privileged families in positions of power within European society whose influence widely dictated the discourse, as it were, of religion, art and culture. In practice, were one to seek to achieve a certain aim in politics, art or culture in that day, it would be desirous, even necessary, to first seek the support and blessing of a Medici, Hapsburg or Windsor.

Such is the situation we find today. Rather than a ruling family dictating the course of culture, we find an oligarchy of multinational, corporate media conglomerates, which serve to mediate the discourse of culture and politics.

It is in this process of mediation that our interests lay, for the all-pervasive nature of media upon culture is not merely dictated from outside, by forces malevolent to democracy, but most importantly is intrinsic within the mediation process itself.

This power of media to filter, translate and propagandize, being intrinsic within the artifacts of the technology itself, brings about the possibility that organizations who employ the mediation process - governments, militaries, intelligence agencies and multinational corporate conglomerates - can exercise by default a form of plausible deniability. Television, they will argue, is more fit as an entertainment medium than as a venue for the serious discussion of the hard issues that we face. We do our best, honestly; but people would rather watch 'Survivor' than a serious dialog about social security reform, for instance.

Government agencies continue to use the 'free press' as a default state-run propaganda arm, by employing tactics of inclusion and manipulation, reinforcing the implicit notion of a privileged access to insider information.

Those agencies which directly employ the forces of violence to further political ends - state and corporate owned military and intelligence organizations - use media-based images of satellite-guided weaponry to convince the electorate of the righteousness of the cause.

It is therefore with no small degree of irony that we can begin to observe the naiveté with which photographers - who should be well versed in the sophistication with which the medium of photography can be employed to further some overt end - seem to be the ones most duped by the medium's ability to represent the abstract image as being endowed with veracious truth.

As a case in point we return to the issue raised at the beginning, where photographers were offended that their job positions would be used to promote a commercial brand not necessarily of their choosing. Of course, the products created by skilled image-makers have always been used in applications not necessarily of their own choosing, permission or even conscious will. Newspapers have always used images to illustrate viewpoints with no regard for the personal philosophical perspective of the photographer in mind.

The fact is simply that commercial applications of any creative medium are usually far removed from the higher creative potential intrinsic to the craft. Commercialism removes any aspect of higher motivation, philosophy or morality, instead boiling down all such potential into a common stew of prurience. In the end we find that photojournalists are mere hired guns, like all other crafts people employed in the service of corporate global media. The higher realms of art are rarely, if ever, truly breached; if so, it is to the sole credit of the photographer, in spite of the milieu within which he works.

True art, if it is to be found at all, must be independent of the manipulative environment of corporate geo-politics. Rather than whore themselves out to the highest bidder, artists must remain true and pure to their highest inner motivations, otherwise their work will be found to be a service of malevolent craftiness. Above all else artists must fully understand the true nature of image making as a process of mediation, remaining ever conscious of the manipulative power that mediation offers and be diligent to keep this potential in check. This is the responsibility that is derived from the gift of creativity.~

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~Joe

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