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Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

Searing Images

North Miami Beach, FL 01-09-2005
A.H. Schectman

In the News of the Week section of the NY Times this morning there is at the bottom of page 2 “No Picture Tells the Truth.  The Best Do Better Than That”.  This brings to mind the pictures that have made the most impact on my mind over the years. It also reminds me that, like most people, I do not see what I do not want to deal with or see beneath the picture to implications that should focus my energies to change what is bad to something better.

It bothers me greatly that censorship is alive and well in the United States today.  In a passive way it has been that way since we had the ability to reproduce not only photographs but the drawings of artists who preceded the photographers. We see what editors or croppers THINK we should see and make decisions among the thousands of images that sear across THEIR eyes. Now that we have almost universal ability to take MOVING pictures, that technological advance must surely find its way to the newspapers we read each day.  That this is true for the Television news and has been since its advent, is just to say that we have had sanitized and selected visions of the truth for a very long time.

One image that I recently recorded with my eyes and camera was that of a face (called The Mask) on a Mayan temple in Belize. That face was an impassive and eyeless (at least I couldn’t see carefully crafted eyes) mask. It was put there by some artist or commentator on the cultural life of the people who lived there a thousand years ago. Time has a way of obliterating the kinds of ruins that were exposed for our delectation by archaeologists who see mounds with trees growing out of them and suspect there once was vibrant life pulsing beneath what time and nature had put there.

I can’t climb anymore but got on the first step of the tallest pyramid there and have the picture to prove it. I am pointing to the top in a way that I intended to show I was on my way up to the very top.  Carol thought I was pointing to others who had made the ascent and were now carefully coming down backward on their backsides.

Searing pictures are often avoided because death, dismemberment and rot are displayed. We were shown medals being awarded to selected members of the Bush team but are not allowed to see and follow up on the coffins of dead soldiers who came home to be reunited with their families. We prefer to see things that are heroic and pretty but not the grisly reality that exists where grief and destruction are the norm.




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