‘Absence Of A Soul’


General Photography

In a recent entry, Michael Shaw discusses the absence of people in the media’s coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: “I suppose the absence of even one soul in either cover is supposed to convey profound loss and disappearance. Still, I find this tendency disconcerting. Just like the lead image from Saturday’s front page story in the LA Times (or the previous TIME cover on the catastrophe, for that matter), we hardly see a sign of life. So, are these images effective for the absence of people, or do they reflect a disaster without a human face?” I wouldn’t know what the editors and writers at the various magazines and newspapers were thinking, but there is another possible explanation, which Simon Norfolk talks about in this excellent interview. Once you include people in a photograph, they “become what the photograph is.” (emphasis in the original interview) Thus, photographing the people who still suffer from the ongoing neglect and mismanagement would exclude those people from the picture - figuratively and literally speaking - who are responsible for that mismanagement (and vice versa).