Machine Guns and a Camera Lens

Blog, Photography

We spend a lot of time bombarded by images. Advertising, news, graphic t-shirts… There are palpable effects of the mental exhaustion; our brain becomes overwhelmed and desensitized to the images that actually matter.

I just gave some of my time over to looking at some of the top photographs of the week from international photojournalists. Death and mourning in Ukraine, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Palestine, Somalia. Afghanistan, Iraq. Lost boys and girls caught in political turmoil along the Rio Grande. The voices of Syria are overcome by newer, sadder faces. Guns, rockets, macho nationalism shrouded in soccer competitions.

Then, there’s the occasional light-hearted picture — a festival, a Santa Claus convention, giant sea turtles… Schizophrenic attempts to offer some semblance of we-aren’t-all-fucked.

Those of us who criticize the media for its over-emphasis on the negative are being silenced by the actual weight of the new negative. It has been easy to tsk-tsk local news instilling fear over random crime, burglary, drive-by shootings, but the reality of international conflict stands on its own as a much deeper challenge to overcome.

TIME Magazine, featuring Alessio Romenzi, a photographer covering the catastrophe in Gaza, writes:

…These images of dead kids are not effective anymore. “We’ve seen them before and we are again in the same situation,” he says. But he takes comfort in the thought that his work will be remembered later on. “We, photographers, are doing this for the future.”

A photograph is forever, and the war photographer lives a life on the edge of infinity. A 26 year old photojournalist was killed in the CAR this year. I weep for the dead artist and teller of pixelated truths.

Every war-torn image we’re bombarded with connects me deeper with an emerging purpose of soul-driven media. Here in affluent America, with money to spare on exploring the outer limits of our consciousness and abilities, we live in peace and harmony, where death has the potential to be celebrated, not just accepted as a circumstance of existence. If we could replace all these guns and missiles with cameras and guitars, maybe we can make it out alive.

This is my tribute to the photojournalists out there on the front lines, and for the photojournalist in all of us.

There’s a weapon in every pocket
A gun, everywhere, loaded with answers to questions we may never ask
Triggers waiting, asking to be pulled
Ukraine Palestine Syria Somalia Afghanistan Los Angeles New York Rio Grande

I never leave home without my gun
Japanese glass loaded with 16GB rounds
Fire five frames per second of fiction
Images blasting from circuits of friction
The victim in my crosshair, my captive
Telling their story with eyes and feet and clothes and weapons of their own

Arms wrapped around strangers necks locked and loaded into an endless embrace forever forever forever
Hands shaped into hearts, eyes wide open with possibilities forever forever forever
Teachers with students, sharing secret recipes for bliss and forever forever forever

The buzzing in my finger as I pull my trigger over and over and over
Reach into your pocket and pull out your weapon — iPhone, Samsung, Nokia, Windows, Whatever.
Open up your camera and capture a better forever

I reach into my backpack and shuffle through
cables, gum, prescriptions for a clear mind, pens, pencils
I pull out an external hard drive, packed to the gills with
Adventures on the front lines of love and peace
The pen is mightier than the sword, sure
And a camera is mightier than a gun
So what trigger will you pull?


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