United Nations – peace and security

A brief paper for my UN class.

It is a crucial aspect within the field of communications to take a step back and remember whose story is being foretold. From director to journalist, people are being depicted during wartime tragedies in ways that creates bias. Typically depicting those less fortunate in their accustomed lifestyle so that viewers at home feel sympathy for the developing story. The way that something is being told versus the way that the audience is perceiving it are two aspects of depiction that are vastly overlooked.

Secretary-General in Guinea
“Secretary-General in Guinea” by United Nations Photo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

In the presentation from class about the war in Kosovo, the photographs depicted were gruesome and hard to look at. The photos published hold significance in the story telling of suffering. Giving a perspective like this still puts the audience at a disadvantage of having a certain type of ignorance with situations like these when they are presented. Most will never know how it feels to be truly suffering like the people in Kosovo from those photos. However, the perspective from the photographer does build a type of bridge to those on the other side of the camera. The photographer is there experiencing these things, and seeing them first-hand, but will not be denied the amenities that they need if requested. The subjects being documented are still on the other side of the camera with no relation to the photographer. In situations like these it can be difficult to blur the line between filmmaker and subject with language barriers and the heightened discrepancies in the power relation.

 

The process of choosing which photographs of the thousands they take during those hardships is also something not shown to audience. With personal experience, choosing which photos and taking fault for the decision is challenging and often controversial within publications. Imagining something on this grand scale seems nearly impossible, but it is often seen from audience point of view that the filmmakers are being sensitive to the material being presented. This is another form of bias because as viewers, we begin to trust these publications to inform us neutrally about the situations occurring outside of our households.

The tough decision about which photo can strike the most passion or fear in the viewer is often given to the person with the most experience within that field. Depicting the malnourished bodies and the amount of people at the refugee camp was the right call in order to fill people’s minds with passion for change, even if it made the viewers uncomfortable. Publishing these photographs was a great risk to the publication’s audience count, even at a time that this type of photograph could have been restricted. Entirely necessary to get the point across, I think they made the right decision in releasing these photos.

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