“The Mapping Journey Project” by Bouchra Khalili

tumblr_no4w98fnde1utnggjo1_400Artist Bouchra Khalili was born in Casablanca and studied Film at Sorbonne Nouvelle and Visual Arts at the Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy but now lives and works in Berlin. She works with various mediums such as film, video, photography and print, exploring language and subjectivity but most importantly geographical explorations.

Her artwork “Mapping Journeys” Video Art Installation is what could be described as a mixed-media installation that combines eight videos and a printed map. Yet, as simple as that might sound, the project has much deeper meaning behind it and falls under social practice art. Interestingly enought, the project also challenges the audience to go against the normativity of cartography and really look into the hidden geographies.

1415620383-bouchra_khalili_the_mapping_journey_project_exhibition_view_1While allowing individuals to tell the stories of their crossings, in their own voice, Khalili uses art as a means for social activism for increasing awareness of the migrant crisis. She offers the audience a different perspective on the notions of space, borders, mobility and the greater political ideologies that play part in this constant power struggle.These people’s journeys show how lives today cannot be defined but cartographic contours also known as boarders. By using the experiences of the storytellers as a starting point and not seeing them as exceptions, Khalili challenges the audience to look at maps differently and reflect on the reality of migration and global movement.

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My Take on the History of Visual Anthropology Films

The various excerpts watched in class today really helped me get a better understanding of the actual transition and evolution underwent in the process of film and its relation to anthropology, more specifically the changes that underwent the creation of visual anthropology. One really important thing that I thought was kind of an overarching theme was this idea of converting from written ethnography to visual as a means to better expose the masses to anthropology through the use of visual media. There was also the use of maps and long introductory text within the films at the very beginning that served as an indicator as to the visual medium being an anthropological film.

nanook-of-the-north-poster The first film or excerpt that we watched by Robert Flaherty entitled “Nook of the North” was actually really compelling. I enjoyed watching it and part of the reason why would definitely be the fact that it was like a picture book, with text then the video. The boat scene in particular was very amusing and the fact that there was no talking or sound but just the music kind of reminded me of a Charley Chaplin movie and again was amusing and compelling to watch. Yet one has to keep in mind that he did in fact have staged events and scripted scenes but they were that of the Eskimo’s everyday lives.

Another film that struck out to me was the one by Margret Mead called “Bathing Babies in 3 cultures”, which I thought was a great concept to compare 3 different cultures with regards to one single act. I really enjoyed the comparative approach between cultures and the way in whichmargaretmead she used her voice to give analysis and observation especially with regards to the treatment of babies and the connection to their mothers. It clearly emphasizes the strong cultural differences. Yet, I feel like there seemed to be a little bias in the way in which she referred to other cultures as opposed to the American, especially in the African case.

 

The other piece that really stood out to me was the “Reassemblage” by Trinh T Minh Ha in which she uses sound and cuts in an exaggerated manner which made the entire piece feel more like a sort of collage or art piece as opposed to a documentary. It gave off a minhhamore artistic vibe like “poetry on screen” with the disoriented scenes that she intentionally wanted to do in order to criticize documentaries. It really guided the focus on her as the creator as opposed to the entire film, which was greatly due to the fact that the audience was not presented to a linear narrative but rather chunks with her voice over.

“Imba” Means Conflicting Feelings

After viewing “Imba Means Sing”, I was left with mixed feelings; I consciously know that enabling African children to get an education is a good thing, but while watching the film, it was hard to shake the feeling that something about this path to education was wrong. During several parts of the film, I felt distinctly uncomfortable but I found difficulty trying to attribute my discomfort to one specific thing, especially when the organization being filmed is supposed to be a beneficial one. I thought that my feelings would be refined and clarified after the the subsequent interaction with the producer, Erin Bernhardt, but I left feeling even more confounded by the duality of emotion the film evoked from me.

The African Children’s Choir is doing work that is positively impacting the lives of the participants. The legacy of the Choir is one of prestige, and obviously the alumni valued the program, because they continue to return in order to contribute it.

And though that legacy is one that should not be overlooked, it is difficult for me to ignore some of the details of the film that were quite strange.

The experience of these African children is directly bound to American churches. Pretty significant parts of the film showed the children performing (in stereotypically “African” costumes) for a largely white congregation. The juxtaposition of the simple churches the children attended in Africa against the massive churches they performed in were shocking. These children lived with members of the church during the days they stayed in the town; even this interaction seemed like a novelty for the people housing the African children. The members of the congregation seemed to know very little about the cultures where these kids came from. They dressed them up in play-clothes and played with Barbies. I know that those activities gave the children joy, but there was something so absurd about young girls using African children as a means of dress up. Maybe it was the sense of exploitation?

That was a sense I felt from a large part of the film. The children were repeatedly told not to “disappoint” anyone; there was an immense pressure upon the children to deliver the performance these Americans wanted to see. This idea giving the people what they want was directly tied to the costumes they wore. The costumes looked almost tribal in nature, and very much subscribed to the western perception of “Africa”. The children never wore anything of a similar nature whilst in their home environments in the actual continent. The children were always asked to smile as big as they possibly could, and enunciating their english well was of importance. It’s as if the performance was aimed at presenting the exotic appeal of the African continent while attempting to separate the poverty and danger that accompanies living there.

In a way, I know that the children’s physical presence elicits more money from congregations. However, it’s difficult for me to understand why these children specifically have to dance. I wonder if its more of a formality; if the american public, specifically people in protestant christian churches, expect people to have to work for charity.

My most important question about “Imba Means Sing” is tied to the bigger picture, and the relative ignorance of that picture by the majority of Americans supporting these students. If children in Africa cannot afford an education, is there not a bigger issue? If these kids have to sing and dance like puppets in front of white people to be considered worthy of schooling, isn’t there clearly a systematic problem? While the African Children’s Choir is attempting to solve an issue, it seems as if the solution needs more than 20 kids who have to sing.

The bigger question is, how do we deal with systematic issues that require solutions that may not show progress in the short term? What is the way in which the US, as a nation of privileged people, should get involved in solving these problems? Are programs like the African’s Children Choir distracting people from getting educated about much bigger issues? Or is it better to have something like the ACC to solve problems in the short term? Can long term and short term solutions like these coexist?

Imba means cha-ching!

I couldn’t resist! I won’t resist!

This post is dedicated to creating to expanding our vision, to creating new visions, even if that means destroying some visions and imagining others. It’s meant to show a glimpse of the potential that awaits when we start destroying the lenses we mistake for our own eyes. Destructive Visions, yeah I like the sound of that!

One of the first things that came to mind when I watched Imba Means Sing was the cultural appropriation by the Children’s Choir organization right from the beginning: commodifying aspects of a culture and stripping them of local, historical and personal context so as to present them in a profitable way within consumerist society.

As I watched this film I felt a certain constellation of sensations.

Only a few kids get out.

Read that and think it over for a bit…

Do you like that fact? Why does it happen? And why don’t we really pay any attention to this fact?

I felt angry for all those who will never get out and never have gotten out.

But come on, what could be wrong with raising money for kids to get an education? That’s got nothing to do with any of this stuff you’re speaking about, right?

Well… are you so sure?

But before I get started.

Is it better than doing nothing? Well maybe… but I think this is a trap question, or at least one we shouldn’t limit ourselves to. What we should really be comparing our actions to—if we truly care to make the greatest difference—are other actions. Not: film vs. no film, but film vs. different film, and even film vs. other actions or film vs. film and other actions, and so on….

The film has been praised for showing the conditions that the children and their families live in. This is a good first step, certainly better than hiding or ignoring them, and it needs to be followed up by more.

Why do the conditions that these children live in actually exist? And why do they persist? You could make hundreds of documentaries and just scratch the surface of this question, but couldn’t we at least include the question? Otherwise it’s as if we accept it as a given, and this is certainly the assumption that slips in if just you watch the film, even more so if you’re a kid, I think. Such assumptions are not characteristics inherent solely to this organization or film, but rather reflect the prevailing assumptions of our society and culture.

I grew up for years wondering why the world was the way it was and no one seemed to know the answers. I think it would have been amazing for this film to even dedicate 30 seconds to raising questions about the nature of society and the situations these children and their families find themselves in: “how did things get like this? Why do they stay like this? Why has it not changed? Who is really in control of what’s going on?”

Of course, there are probably limits to what an organization like this will allow a film maker to include about them before closing up or losing interest, just like advertisers and information sources (people, groups, institutions) do with media stations [2].

But let’s ask ourselves some more anyway.

“Why hasn’t anyone changed all of this already?”

The answer is: they can’t.

I can see no other reason. Can you?

Why can’t they? Because society is not run by just anyone but by those with power and ownership, and all who obey and reproduce such an ordered disorder. And no amount of petitioning others to act on our behalf will ever change the fact that we are pleading for others to use their power to remedy the ills caused by structures of concentrated and coercive power. No one will ever offer you the freedom to act as you see fit because no one can—not any politician or product pusher.

I do not find the prospects of the education system all that hopeful either. For one, it fosters a competitive separatist mentality over false scarcity (grades, ranks, status) just like the capitalist and state structures. It also prepares people to assimilate into the current social system and work on its terms rather than challenging the status quo. So you get your schooling done, go get a job and then perpetuate the whole system whose foundations and effects you just needed help to escape from.

Whoever can offer a wage to those who need it determines what should be done and how. Schools are an extremely efficient mechanism for absorbing dissent and channeling energy to support the institutions that control the schools and dominate the overall culture.

Again, our comparison should not be to “nothing, aka no education” but to other forms and to seriously question what we consider to be education [1]. Most schools will never raise serious concerns about the institution of private property (aka absentee ownership backed up by threat and use of violence), let alone any alternatives.

Why are we still accepting the neo/liberal ideologies and disseminating them? Like the idea that we just need to increase some vague notion of equal “opportunity” so people can better compete for positions within the fabricated and arbitrary hierarchies that serve to subordinate everyone for the privileges of a few?

This is the whole point: by not drawing attention to these assumptions in our media, they become embedded in and reproduced through the viewers.

Even though these issues are beyond the scope and perhaps purpose of this documentary I wish it at least acknowledged them rather than becoming another voice perpetuating the dominant narratives.

It does not explicitly or likely even intentionally do this either, which is what makes the whole process so insidious! No fundamental alternatives exist! We are pretty much never taught to question these things in any school. These societal and cultural assumptions are so pervasive it’s as if they were the fabric of reality itself.

What makes me so angry is that so many films seems to uncritically accept and reinforce the state-capitalist-consumerist trifecta that relies on a hidden history of (neo)colonialism, racism and other systems of exploitation. Even ones that try to challenge this often rely on the same fundamental activities and often support the nonprofit industrial complex [3]: vote your way out, consume your way out, focus on a becoming a professional and making a career.

In creating certain visions, we also destroy others. By bringing attention to select aspects we create certain narratives and distract from details which do not fit it. This is the paradox of filmmaking and perhaps all narrative and art. These are all just as much about what is not included, and what does not make the final cut as what does.

So we should look at our films, our art, our narratives, our stories, and ask ourselves: what is missing? What is not being said? And why? And whom does it benefit?

One may counter that these perspectives have no bearing if the intentions and goals of the film are different, but I find these notions lackluster and evasive at best. Can creative visions not be expanded? Must they be limited by denying critical engagement? I do not think so.

So what am I doing about it? My point is to point out that what often seem like innocuous details in fact re-establish fundamental paradigms that support the problems and status quo we are seeking to change.

If we cannot see the problems, then we act as if there are no problems. If people start with the wrong assumptions they’ll never get to the roots of the issues they wish to change.

It would be quite interesting if someone—perhaps the authors themselves—made a documentary critiquing and expanding on their own work and engaging critically with it, really critically. Has anyone ever done that? Follow up their(?) own work with a critique of it? I think that would be pretty cool.

References

[1] Haworth, R. H. (2012). Anarchist pedagogies: Collective actions, theories, and critical reflections on education. Oakland, CA: PM Press.

[2] Herman, Edward S, and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon Books, 1988. Print.

[3] Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. (2007). The revolution will not be funded: Beyond the non-profit industrial complex.

Impositionality

After reading about Positionality, I wonder how much of research is imposed upon the “subjects” and if this can ever be eliminated so long as there is distinction between researcher and researched, observer and observed? Certainly it can exist to varying degrees, but there seems to be a certain incongruity in churning out data from people as a necessary component of our own agendas, which themselves are not entirely our own and are almost unavoidably tied up with and driven by rules set through broader status competitions.

How often do we impose our agendas on others, whether as researchers or as people? Aren’t we often trying to expand our territory and defend the borders of our status and identity, or even just pushing our own assumptions and understanding which may have negative effects, even if well intentioned?

What would it look like if we did not have to defend such things and take them as seriously?

This doesn’t necessarily have to do with or mean letting everyone into your life and all information out. There is a reality to the fact that many would take advantage of such opportunities for their own gain regardless of the costs to others. So why should anyone trust researchers? Will their voices be heard because of them? Will their wills triumph or fade as transient echoes? Will they merely be converted into “data,” absorbed into papers and digitized… then perhaps transported behind a secluded cyberspace armored in pay walls? Are we just extracting more information to be used the disposal of those further up in the hierarchies?

Sometimes people have never even been asked what they think, and they may actually be quite grateful that someone, anyone, is genuinely interested. Or they might not mind at all. And there times when there might be no other ways for people to share their stories amidst the dominant narratives, images and paradigms.

But what else can we do to combat such restrictive conditions and transform our relations into those more characterized by mutuality? And what can we do to dismantle the “need” to ‘produce data’ from others that our social relations manufacture? Why don’t our needs for social relations lead to our knowledge rather than our need for knowledge or data lead to our relations?

Turning things Inside Out

Sad joy,
and joyful sadness

Sadness as an insider outsider or outsider insider; pulling and pushing and moving perspectives.

Sadness as an insider outsider or outsider insider; pulling, pushing and moving perspectives.

I really think this film does a good job of showing the complexities of insider outsider positions and how each can have unexpected perspectives that the other needs. Characters even try to impose their own understandings to secure particular positions, which leads to all kinds of breakdowns in communication.

Although outsider dimensions of positionality can lead to information being excluded, being an insider is not universally useful, as this may lead to assumptions regarding what information is important and what the others ought to be doing and care about. We’re not just occupying spaces that shift, there are constant attempts to reproduce and rearrange relations and positions, whether through personal narratives, interactions, communication, or more structural forces.

It takes joy and sadness to bridge the gap in understanding, insider and outsider, literally and metaphorically (they’re actually not so easily distinguished!).

Perhaps working together as insiders and outsiders is the way to go, knowing when to team up and when to separate so that each can do their thing.

Image Credit to Pixar Studios, Disney and all other respective holders.

Insider Status Outside of Formal Research — A reaction to “Power and Positionality”

 

“What does it mean to be an insider or an outsider to a particular group under study?” Merriam et. al pose this question at the opening of their piece “Power and Positionality: negotiating insider/outsider status within and across cultures,” in which they explore the power dynamics at play in the interactions between researchers and the subjects of their observations. According to Merriam, power and positionality are not fixed concepts that create static and cleanly delineated divisions in subjects, but rather fluid and relational constructs that must be constantly navigated and renegotiated in anthropological research.

“During fieldwork the researcher’s power is negotiated, not given.”

Being inside a community, Merriam suggests, is far more complex than just having a claim to a specific shared national, ethnic, or geographic origin. Rather, insider status is established by members of communities who coalesce around aligned individual qualities that span components of peoples’ ideas reaching from race, to gender, to educational backgrounds. As such, Merriam states that “positionality is thus determined by where one stands in relation to ‘the other'” and more importantly, “these positions can shift: ‘The loci along which we are aligned with or set apart form those whom we study are multiple and in flux. Factors such as education, gender, sexual orientation, class, race, or sheer frustration of contacts may at different times outweigh the cultural identity we association with insider or outsider status.”

Yet while Merriam’s analysis offers critical insight into the dynamics that exist between researchers and their subjects, it also offers a more broadly salient and culturally significant understanding of insider/outsider dynamics that may inform our interactions outside of specific research contexts. Most of us traverse precarious insider/outsider dynamics on a daily basis, passing in and out of our contingent identities as students, friends, children, leaders, and members of separate (although often overlapping) social spheres. Yet, while most of us can identify with a sense of existing as an outsider or oscillating between feeling like an insider and an outsider as we phase through our different identities, many of us do so without ever questioning how our everyday insider/outsider statuses may affect our knowledge production.

While the step to interrogate the veracity of representation in formal research seems natural, the necessity of doing so in the mundane contexts of our daily lives may feel less relevant. Yet knowledge production is not an activity confined to formal research, nor are community dynamics informed solely by the power dynamics created between observers and observees. And just like race, educational background, gender, class, and nationality may affect our interpretations of other communities and our ability to observe and understand others, so too does our ability to recognize actively the position from which build the foundations of our knowledge about our community and others.

The relational exchanges that inform our own identities are constantly at work, and as such the knowledge that informs our observations is constantly in formation and under reconstruction. How we interpret our own communities and cultures cannot be divorced from our sense of insider status, and how we relate to communities which we feel foreign to cannot be divorced from our social sense out outsider-ship. Thus, perhaps most in Meriam’s analysis is its pertinence in our daily formation of relationships and ideologies. While we may not all go on to do research with communities, we all constitute our own ideas about the world based on relationships that we formulate every day. Being able to recognize how our opinions and observations are informed by the power dynamics that we engage with is critical — as much as it is in research — to valuing earnestly the opinions of those outside of our communities.

 

Reactions to Sontag’s “Looking at War”

In Susan Sontag’s “Looking at War,” Sontag describes the way in which photography allows us to observe, consume, and relate to the pain of others. Photos, she tells us, provide powerful and moving sources points of connection through which we might better represent pain that is foreign and removed. However, even more importantly, Sontag reminds us that photos carve out exception impressions of suffering in our mind, offering neither comprehension nor identification. Photographs create visual spaces of exception in which viewers can witness atrocity in a way that is meaningful but still removed, perhaps missing entirely the way in which war causes banal, prolonged pain.

This week in class as we looked at war photographs, I was struck by one photo in particular as exemplary of the way in which photos might move us emotionally without providing narrative understanding to help us better untangle the causes and experiences of suffering through war. Eddie Adams’ photo of a Southern Vietnamese general killing a Viet Kong suspect exemplify’s much of what Sontag discusses. While the photo is gripping, portraying a man in palpable agony, seemingly living out his last seconds, it also offers no means to better understand the Vietnam War or why he was dying. While it catalyzes an emotional response, that emotional stimulation absent narrative guidance, offers sheer, raw opportunity to mobilize ideologies. Years after the photo was taken, Adams’ ended up apologizing the the general’s family, insisting that even if what he did was not right, it is important for us to put ourselves in his situation.

Eddie Adam’s Photo of a General and Viet Kong Subject

Adams’ words illustrate a critical reminder for our society as it consumes photos of war and suffering: that for those of us who observe the visual rendering of conflict, we ultimately cannot identify with the lived experience of war. While it is easy to criminalize men like the General in Adam’s photograph, his suffering in a war-torn state is unintelligible to us, as we relate to him through this iconic, frozen moment alone, not as a human living out a narrative existence. His pain, his life story, and his relationship to this moment are unknown to us. Adam’s photo serves to mobilize our own preconceptions of the war in Vietnam, but offers no means for understanding the general or the man murdered. As Sontag suggests, “harrowing photographs do not inevitably lose their power to shock. but they don’t help us much to understand.”

When thinking about photographs and the power they have to draw on human sympathies, Sontag clearly suggests that it is crucial to remember that photos do not offer us honest understanding into the experiences of wartime. They offer isolated and often exceptionalized representations of conflict that for the people immersed in them are far from exceptional or isolated. Thus, while me may see pain and suffering in a way that stirs us personally, it does not offer us any means through which we can truly identify with the experience of that suffering. And while our sympathies might be rallied, they are often rallied in accordance with our own preexisting beliefs, rather than in empathetic identification with subjects and places we cannot truly understand.

Imagination of Images

Susan Sontag makes many very interesting points in Looking at War, among them the idea that written accounts will have more of an impact due to the increased attention and detail they require and can provide. I tend to agree with this point as text requires a bit more engagement to make sense of whereas images can leave us without context or coherence.

She also criticizes the sort of grand and perhaps abstract philosophizing of those such as Guy Debord in The Society of the Spectacle. This point left me a bit confused, as from what little I have read of the Spectacle his argument seemed to be more that in western society reality or relationships are inevitably becoming ever more media-ted by images. Almost like we live in an image-in-nation, nation of images. She goes on to state that no one can know what war is actually like: “Can’t understand, can’t imagine.” This seems to be in the same vein as what Debord might argue about the Spectacle and its unreality or mediation of reality via images.

Overall I enjoyed this article but it sort of leaves me aching for further analysis. It seems like she could have gone a bit further beyond culture and individuals to include the state, which is inextricably tied up with war, passivity, consumption, spectacle, and cultures of domination. Without this piece of the puzzle it almost feels like the article inadvertently obscures some of the context for war—the competing rulers’ positions—solely with a lack of comprehension of the true atrocity of war in a way reminiscent of the naivety of the peace movement that has little analysis of private property, wage slavery, borders and centralization of power.

I actually think one of the main problems is our lack of imagination in conceiving of alternate worlds, which is partly due to the narratives and images we are inundated with constantly. Those interested in such alternatives are more likely to search, find and create them, like a fire that has been lit and needs fuel. But those who have no concept of alternative seem less likely to fundamentally question what’s in front of them and do something about it.

“Looking at War” by Susan Sontag Reflection

In Sontag’s article “Looking at War,” she raises the point of what is the purpose of explicit war photography? While this question was originally raised after a gallery in New York in 2000 displayed pictures of African American lynching victims, this question is also relevant to war photography. Some may argue that the purpose of these images is to expose the “truth” of what is really happening during war. However, as observed in the famous photograph of the Vietnam War where a police chief is shooting a man in a plaid shirt in broad daily on the streets, this photograph does not necessarily display the “truth”. While the viewer does know that a man is shooting another man, we do not know what provoked this situation, who is in the right (if anyone), or even if the trigger was actually pulled. I would disagree with the notion that the purpose of these photographs is to show the truth of the war. Instead, I would say that the purpose of these photographs is to create an emotional bridge between the viewer and the situation. What I mean by this statement is that in order for a photograph to be effective, the viewer needs to relate emotionally to the picture.

Sontag does point out that there is a difference between pity and empathy when relating to a photograph. It is easy to pity the people in these images if the viewer has never experienced or come close to experiencing the situation that is being shown. Yet, this emotional response is still valuable because it draws attention to the situation in which people can further investigate their curiosity about the image. For example, although this photograph was not mentioned in the article, there is a famous image of a man standing in front of a row of Chinese tanks who were invading Tiananmen Square as a form of protest in 1989. Perhaps if a westerner viewed this image they would feel scared, sad, and pity the man in the photo. These feelings are still valuable because in recent Black Lives Matter protests, a photograph of a young girl standing in front of armed police men was similar to the “tank man” photograph in that they both showed a civilian standing up to the powerful forces in front of them. Western viewers who see the similarity in the photo happening in the USA to the photo in China can now empathize with the other situation. Therefore, I would argue that one purpose of these war photographs is to draw connections between different places so we can empathize with each other.

The Power of Photography

This week in class, it was interesting getting to see how we react and receive information when given to us in different forms and mediums. Furthermore, the techniques and methods used by each of these mediums, particularly photography and film, that make us feel a certain way or draw our attention to something in particular. For example, when we discussed the filming strategies used in Saving Private Ryan or talked about what stood out to us most in the iconic Vietnam War photo.

Answering questions about photography allowed us to open up to these new ways of thinking and interpretation. I have also come to realize, by examining and reading about war photography, how truly powerful photography can be. Reading Susan Sontag’s “Looking at War” made me think about an argument made by critic Roland Barthes on a certain photograph taken in 1865. The photo is of Lewis Payne, who was involved in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, as he sits on death row awaiting his execution. The photographer is Alexander Gardner.

Lewis Thornton Powell, or Lewis Payne, awaiting his execution (Alexander Gardner, 1865)

What fascinated Barthes was that this photograph was a representation of both the past and the future. It reveals something that has already happened yet at the moment it was taken, Payne’s death had not yet happened. Barthes resents the fact, however, that all photos are essentially a representation of the sitter’s impending death. In other words, a photograph is a past presence of a future death, whether the sitter is still alive or not. I think photographs (those that are not staged) provide such an accurate representation and authentic depiction of something that it allows us to place ourselves in that context, making them so powerful. We imagine ourselves in that moment and can feel completely transported. I think many of us felt this way when watching Saving Private Ryan or observing the Vietnam War photo.

I was also intrigued by Sontag’s comment about photography’s ability to turn something tragic and devastating into something beautiful. Why do we find images of ruins—for example, the remains of the World Trade Center after 9/11—so beautiful? As Sontag says, it seems almost “frivolous, sacrilegious,” but photographs following the 9/11 attack were, in fact, quite beautiful. As Sontag continues, “Photographs tend to transform, whatever their subject; and as an image something may be beautiful—or terrifying, or unbearable, or quite bearable—as it is not in real life.” Perhaps it is not the photograph itself, but a photograph’s ability to transport, transform, and create a certain sensation within us that makes it so powerful.