Painful shoes at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Longchamp, Paris.
Time to leave the glamour of Longchamp and come back down to earth. Tyler Perry's personal story brought tears to my eyes. I'm looking forward to seeing Precious, although I expect it will be difficult to watch the abuse. But perhaps this movie - based on Sapphire's book Push - will make people pay attention to nearly-invisible or overlooked people in society, who all too often suffer in silence.
War photography and ethics
I've been reading The Bang-Bang Club written by the acclaimed conflict photographers Greg Marinovich and Jaoa Silva. The book talks about their harrowing experiences, as well as those of their friends and colleagues Ken Oosterbroek, killed by a stay bullet while working and Kevin Carter, who committed suicide weeks after winning a Putlizer Prize for his powerful photograph of a starving child in the Sudan.
"...The picture had caused a sensation. It was being used in posters for raising funds for aid organizations. Papers and magazines around the world had published it and the immediate public reaction was to send money to any humanitarian organization that had an operation in Sudan. The heart-wrenching image of a starving, helpless infant being scrutinized by a vulture had inevitably raised the question, "What happened to the little girl?" and, followed close on that, "What did the photographer do to help her?"
"The barrage of questions had begun to get to Kevin. He could not answer that he had simply left the child there; that the child was not in any direct danger from the vulture, since it is a fact that vultures will never attack anything still showing signs of life. Nor was the child likely to die of starvation, as the feeding-centre, with its ability to administer emergency nutrition, was barely 100 metres away. Kevin at first had told people that he had chased the vulture away and that he had then gone and sat under a tree to cry. He did not know what happened to the child. But the questions kept coming..."
Parts of the book's raw honesty are painful to read. But it's absolutely fascinating to learn more about the dilemmas photojournalists (and print journalists) often face: to engage and try to help in a dire situation or to take the photo, get the story and walk away?
At a photography class in London last month, we discussed this predicament. All of us agreed we'd find it nearly impossible to walk away during a situation in which someone was suffering, without doing what we could to help. Of course there are times when one's own life is in danger and a choice may not be possible.
Recently I was at the French hairdresser, anxious about the way one can never quite pass muster in the intense scrutiny of certain impossibly thin, chic French women. Reading The Bang-Bang Club put it all in perspective, as the women around me chattered and gossiped about trivial things.
Open Shutters: Iraq
Seems silly to be concerned about the opinion of strangers, when far more important things are going on all around us. Open Shutters: Iraq is a new documentary by filmmaker Maysoon Pachachi. It traces the stories of 12 Iraqi women who meet in Damascus to learn photography. They then take their newfound skills and return to Iraq, telling stories with their photographs. Later, they return to Syria to edit their photos and write their stories.
A book featuring the Open Shutters: Iraq photographs will be released soon.
Poverty and human rights
A new book stresses the link between economic rights and human rights. The Unheard Truth: Poverty and Human Rights is written by Irene Khan, the outgoing secretary-general of Amnesty International. In a profile in The Independent, Khan talks about her disillusion with Amnesty's current role in human rights work.