Wednesday, December 28, 2005

MAGAZINES: All the Best Photos of 2005?

TIME magazine recently came out with its Best Photos of 2005 (viewable here in a gorgeous slideshow). The collection is dominated by images from the various natural and man-made disasters that plagued this year: the aftermath of the southeast Asian tsunami, the riots in Paris, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the earthquake along the Pakistan-India border, the war in Iraq, the bombings in London, and the ethnic warfare in the Sudan.

I know these were devastating global events. I know it's important that they were documented for posterity. And I feel grateful that we live in an age where access to such imagery is so easy, because I believe images are the most efficient, effective way to create empathy.

But a tiny (and no doubt selfish) part of me is sad that these are the only images selected to define 2005. Was there no joy or beauty worth remembering?

Edited to add: MSNBC's The Year in Pictures includes some equally bleak images, as well as some uplifting (and, dare I say, even funny) ones. Overall, I give this selection props for showing greater range, even if some of the dark ones -- such as the American soldier comforting the dying Iraqi child -- made me cry. Thanks to Em for the link.


Anita said...

I'm a Time magazine subscriber and had the same thought that you did upon viewing the pics (which look better online by the way). I just felt depressed after viewing that issue . . .

Anonymous said...

I just wrote a letter to the Editor of Time. It's really disappointing to me that they can't move beyond death and violence for even a fluff piece like this. I know that the Iraqi election picture was supposed to be hopeful but sheesh. I wonder why it is so shameful to show joy.

I know I could have sent them a dozen pictures of my three-year-old that capture pure joy. They couldn't come up with one?

Em said...
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Unknown said...

Was there any news worthy joy this year? If you show a rescued puppy, you are still showing Katrina/the earth quake/the tsunami,The puppy didn't need rescuing from happiness. I thought the shot of the woman who ran for office was a less than miserable image. But yes, it was a very sad year in images.

Em said...

Oh bother. Sorry for the above snafu on my part.

Here's another couple of slideshows with voice-over and music. I thought they were gorgeous, even if a good part of the images are depressing, others are uplifting.

Editor's Choice selection is more graphic than the Reader's Choice selections.

Tammy said...

Diana, I wasn't thinking so much about rescued puppies as I was about images that juxtapose happiness or innocence or joy against darker backgrounds, such as the TIME photo of the Sri Lankan schoolgirls playing in the surf or the Iraqi boy using the concrete security wall as a jungle gym. These images may be formulaic in their own right, but at least they act as a relief to the barrage of bleak images in the selection.

Something I can't believe I forgot to mention in my post: my outrage at the inclusion of a close-up image of a dead CHILD in one of the photos of the aftermath of the Pakistan/India earthquake. They would never dare publish such an image of an American child. I'm unbelievably pissed off about this.

They refer to the child as a "student" as if to distract us from the fact that he's a child and perhaps make him seem older, but you can tell by the baby fat on his fingers and wrists that he's probably not more than ten or twelve.

It's dehumanizing, and TIME should be ashamed.

Anonymous said...

Joining the chorus, I was also shocked when I read through the print version last week. I opened it up first to a dead child in Packistan, then turned to a dead body in New Orleans. Surely SOMETHING good happened last year, that someone was around to photograph????

landismom said...

These are both pretty depressing. I guess the thing that I would say about this is that, there is always two sides of heartache--there is the absolute devastation of things like Katrina, or the tsunami, but there are also the incredibly moving stories of people who are driven to help those who have been devastated. It seems to me that they could have chosen equally eloquent photos of nurses who took leaves of absence from their jobs to go live in Louisiana for two months, or doctors who flew to Indonesia to help the suffering. You can choose to just pull on the heartstrings with tragedy, or you can show that tragedy sometimes inspires us to do better.

Anonymous said...

I agree that magazines tend to show much more graphic images of people (including children) from third world countries than they do from America and other Western countries. I suppose there's a few possible explanations for this:

1) More tragedies/death in 3rd world countries implies more pictures to be taken

2) Very unlikely that a family member from the 3rd world country will see image, whereas if a dead American child were shown, her family would almost certainly see the image.

3) People from 3rd world countries are seen as "less human" than people from Western countries.

I think it's a combination of all 3, although I really wish that I could believe that #3 didn't apply.