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Previous | Next :: Captain David Thompson : Dignity and Truth in Photography : Louisiana | September 19, 2012, 8:09 pm

Captain David Thompson : Dignity and Truth in Photography : Louisiana
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I am writing this in response to having just listened again to the "Thought for the Day" broadcast this morning by Reverend Dr Giles Fraser on BBC Radio 4's Today Program. Simply put in my view he could not be more wrong. The dignity and the inner worth of people is often captured in photography. The beauty and infinite worth of each individual is often distilled into a specific moment when a portrait of that individual is made. An older person can look back and see themselves and remember the joy of the day they received their degree. A mother can remember the first time she held her child. A proud American citizen can look back and see the first black President with his beautiful family in the White House as they arrive on their very first day. British subjects can view the quiet dignity that the people of Wootten Bassett displayed as they stood in silence to honor the fallen soldiers as they returned from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan in their flag draped coffins. The images of New York on 9/11 return that feeling of fear and despair to welling up from the pit of my stomach.

Photography is an incredible medium that stores moments of time for ever, and with it, the emotions from that moment in time. Photography is powerful and beautiful. I have believed my whole life in its importance and its special significance. I have dedicated my life to making images that have poignancy and significance, some have pathos and sorrow others beauty and joy. Non are abusive or objectifying of people.

I have travelled all over the world to make photographs. I have visited peoples homes in the poverty of the refugee camps of Gaza and the street dwellings of Mumbai and many other places. I have even, like the Reverend, visited poverty stricken people in Ghana, but unlike the Reverend Dr Giles Fraser I was able to win the trust of people, live with them and make telling images reflecting their lives. But it is not just me, perhaps the Reverend should drop in on the Photographers Gallery and look at the work of Pieter Hugo who has also been to Ghana, he should look at Pieter's portraits of Al Hassan Abukari or Naasra Yeti, people living and working in the direst poverty. Maybe only the Reverend could see these searing images and say they do not reflect the infinite worth of each individual, or even say that these are not portraits of specific individuals, people with dignity and pride, even though they are clearly living in the direst of poverty. Maybe the Reverend thinks we should just look away and forget about individuals facing these conditions in their lives?

Sadly, Britain has been slipping away from the very important freedom to just make photographs and the equally important general acceptance of the freedom to make photographs. Here in Britain, the act of photography is being pushed into a box labelled abuse. I have often been attacked and threatened in Britain because I have cameras, this does not happen in America. I cannot tell you how sad I was to hear the Reverends attack on photography. To hear how he elevated a growing psychosis around photography to the status of religion. Photographers are already attacked in the street by people who think they have the moral high ground, they do not need to be egged on by the Reverend.

I have previously never heard an attack on a persecuted vulnerable group of people on 'Thought for the Day'. I have previously never heard an attack on a beautiful and important art form on 'Thought for the Day'. I have to say I felt the 'Thought For The Day' broadcast yesterday by The Reverend Giles Fraser was nothing short of shameful.

Cheers Jez

PS........ Here is the offending broadcast is you are interested to hear it ............ http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/thought/thought_20120919-1104a.mp3

PPS.......... I made this portrait above during the BP oil spill in the gulf......... i think it shows the individual with truth and dignity....... this is what I wrote at the time:

David Thompson, the Captain of the fishing boat Marcelette, has to keep his boat on the dock at the moment due to restrictions on fishing. He is worried that the BP oil spill will effect his livelihood for years to come. Pictured here in his wheel house he has ridden out many storms on this vessel including Hurricane Katrina, but this is a new type of storm that he can't really judge. He is worried it may continue to effect fishing and the whole economy of Louisiana long after BP and other responsible parties have finished paying out any compensation.

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