Thursday, June 18, 2009

Use of photography (Reflection paper)

People use photography for many purposes: to keep as an evidence of their life (family album), to study historical or cultural aspects (research papers and books), and to document something important to others (media). In his book Wisconsin Death Trip, Dr. Michael Lesy used photos from the last century to reveal historical aspects of certain place. In other words, he wanted to reveal “psychology or personality of events” in the Black River Falls area in 1885-1900. He could not reach his purpose because the photos were highly selective and they were not in the historical context with other events. He concerned only dark side of the people’s life in that area. He played a role of gatekeeper which made this book too biased. Actually, there are always two sides in life: bright and dark. He intentionally did not show the bright side of life. That is why this book gives sad feeling to people.

As several graduate students participated in study pointed out this is not historical approach. It’s just one way of telling. Historical approach should be in context of many things. I think, Michael Lesy was a pessimist by that time. On the other hand, he could have being affected by some readings of historical book or newspaper of that time and got an idea to create such kind of book. He only used those photos to interpret some bad events occurred in the area and covered time to time in the newspapers. As journalists, we know what is value of the news. Most journalists define that bad news is news. Apparently, newspapers from the end of last century also did consider mostly bad news to be covered. This might be influenced the researcher to make his biased study and he used those photos as a supplement of interpretation of bad news from the newspapers.


February, 2001

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