how snapshots confuse our lives
akv stjoost – Research group Photography, 2009
For the first time in history the majority of all existing images is made by amateurs.
On December 30, 2006 I saw the execution of Saddam Hussein, probably like everybody who watches news on TV or surfs the Internet regularly. The next morning the same pictures were also lying on my doormat, published on the first page of my daily newspaper. It was almost impossible to avoid them.
What fascinated me most about those images was not the following discussion whether it is bad taste or ethnically incorrect to show pictures like that, but simply the fact that those pictures were made by a mobile phone of an anonymous attendee during the execution, and that they rapidly started their way into living rooms worldwide via the Internet. This marked a new epoch of images for me: the epoch in which amateur snapshots finally intervene with an until then unknown vehemence into power-struggles, news, professional propaganda and thereby the human perception of reality.
There had been other incidents before when amateur footage was used in the traditional media, for example the pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison, a snapshot of the murdered Theo van Gogh, 9/11, the London tube bombing and other terror attacks. But the exclusivity and the impact of the Saddam pictures caught my attention. Were those pictures really made and put online secretly, and so leaked into the traditional media and our consciousness seemingly incidentally, or were they actually commissioned and just a smart part of the official propaganda strategy? They look like typical amateur images, but maybe they aren’t. We will probably never know.
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