Posted by: kaylagee91 | November 27, 2017

Dahmen’s case is well meaning, but nothing new

‘Images of Resilience: The Case for Visual Restorative Narrative’ is well meaning, but nothing new. Nicole Dahmen’s piece starts off by recounting the life-altering experiences of people who were photographed in the midst of tragedy and how in some cases, the circulation of those images caused a great deal of pain and humiliation.

Dahmen contemplates whether or not photojournalism can also, “convey the story behind the immediacy of the horrific event? Can they capture and convey recovery, resilience, and restoration?” (94). She proceeds to make the case for restorative narrative, a newer genre of photojournalism or ‘visual journalism’ (Santana & Russial, 2013, p.81) that aims to tell stories through long term photographic reporting that builds trust with impacted subjects. Dahmen notes that duty of journalists from a traditional point of view is to report the facts rather than advocate, but contends that the responsibilities of photojournalists are too changing with the times (95).

One can’t help but wonder whether the underlying agenda is to conserve the practice of photojournalism or to tell restorative narratives in a responsible way. Can it be both?

As a woman of color, I’m wary of stories centered around tragedy. People of color embody a richness that transcends tragedy and there are counter-stories that deserve a space in public discourse. Why not use image power to tell stories about people of color who are empowered so that we can begin to change the narrative? Aiming to elicit empathy for the purpose of baiting donors is paternalistic and short sighted. It’s time to do things differently.




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