The Migrant Mother, Benetton Aids Advert, Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla 1968

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by susan_langford, Nov 13, 2011.

  1. Hi, I am writing a a dissertation concerning the photographs listed and wanted your opinions on these, the chapters will be
    1, Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla 1968: Journalistic
    2, Benetton Aids Advert: Advertising
    2, The Migrant Mother: Social History
    Any help would be appreciated, feelings concerning these photographs whether they should have been published and did they help the cause. This forum has been very helpful concerning my dissertation and now that I have become more focused. more help would be appreciated. Thanks
  2. While I THINK I know which photos you are referring to, can I be certain that you and I are referring to the same images? More importantly, can YOU be certain, that we are talking about the same image? You should have provided links to the specific images that you are referring too.
    Not to be 'too' snarky, but the assumption that I can read your mind indicates to me a high possibility of a poorly written dissertation and poor marks.
  3. The images I am relating to are the iconic images. I want responses to them and if you may refer to another image that may fall into this category please upload it and let me know why you refer to that image that makes you respond to the title. This may make the dissertation more interesting, thank you for your input.
  4. Susan, please include links to the exact images you mean to avoid any confusion, as it will also help keeping the discussions a bit on track, if we all talk about the same actual photo. I think a discussion on the photos could yield more insights than a series of individual reactions to different photos.
    Either way, I don't think anyone here can actually seriously say any of these photos helped "the cause" based on personal perceptions. The population of this forum is too small to derive a seriously meaningful statement. Nor is the average poster here equal to the average public: we are all much more photographically aware and hence react differently to images.
    Not trying to discourage you, but you should be realistic about what you are measuring with us here.
  5. Photos like these are the subject of thousands of term papers and endless online conversations that are all completely Google-able. If you're honestly expecting previously un-heard-of insights from people as you ask them to help you with your homework, you need to ask more insightful questions about the three images you mention and the ways they were made and used. You're asking the same questions that everyone asks about them, and not asking anything fresh. So why look for fresh thoughts?

    While there are some very informed and insightful people on this forum, you're not showing them anything on your part that would inspire them to do anything beyond recommending that you simply Google the jillions of generic answers that already address your very generic questions.

    For example: "help the cause." What does that mean? Whose cause? What cause, in your mind, was "The Migrant Mother" specifically trying to help? Your question presumes that the answer to that question is so obvious that everyone reading your post should know it, context and all. I'm no dummy, and I couldn't tell you what specific outcome or action the photographer had in mind when recording her subjects during that period.

    Did she advocate a particular policy agenda? Was she looking to support certain political actions or priorities in a particular, practical direction? Was she looking at individual plights, or thinking in terms of macro-economics, taxes, charity, or legislative matters? I get no hint from you that you're thinking in those terms, and wonder if you're hoping other people will do that thinking for you as you ask them to address whether or not the photograph "helped the cause." Which is lazy.

    Yes, I'm scolding you for not taking a few minutes to frame the question more interestingly, and agree with Glen and Wouter that it's bad form not to link to "the iconic images." This is a community. Not everyone who stumbles across this thread will necessarily know each of the images to which you refer, and it's good form to provide links, as part of your contribution to what goes on here.

    You joined this site in August of this year, and this is only the second time you've posted. The first time you posted, your question also began with, "I am writing a dissertation..." - but otherwise, you're not participating at all. Your first and only other thread ended with fellow PN members asking you some quick and simple follow-up questions, and you never bothered to answer them.
  6. If you are asking about the Susan Sontag question, I did answer it. I have researched the photographs i wanted to ask the question without directing someone on what their opinions may be. I am sorry I have upset you all but was just asking for some personal insight into these photographs. Some people may know these images others may not, I am sure there are a lot of iconic images I don't know about but I would google the image and would respond, I certainly would not lecture some one on their question. Thank you for your response.
  7. Susan, I'm referring to the nine comments/question that follow your last comment in this thread. These are contributions from members in the days after you stopped visiting the thread you started. You can click the "notify me of responses" link at the bottom of any thread, if you're worried you'll forget to follow up on converstations you start.

    You're mistaking "upset" with "trying to make this forum generally, and this thread in particular, more useful to PN's thousands of members and visitors." You seem to see this site and its members as a resource to be used, rather than one to which you would contribute. When asking other people to do things for you, it does seem odd to tell them to go research the material you're asking about, instead of you pasting in some well chosen links.

    Surely you already have dozens of web pages related to your dissertation already bookmarked and only a mouse-click away? You won't skew people's opinions (do you really want opinions that are so easily changed?) by linking to an image, though you might muddle things considerably by making them Google on terms like "Benetton" and "AIDS" and guess what you're referring to as they spend their time trying to help you with school work.
  8. Thankyou, It all seemed to get heated,you are right I forgot to go back to the site and I did forget to click "notify me of response". When I did not get emails I assumed that no one else responded. The problem with the internet you cannot see what is going on in someones life. I apologise for not getting back to the forum.
    All I wanted was opinions from people concerning these images, Their own personal response.
    Thank you for your response and for putting things in to perspective.
  9. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It looks like you tried to post the images here.
    You can't do that, they are not your images and we don't allow posting of images that are not yours. You can post links as people have requested.
  10. I was trying to post the Urls
  11. I have decided to withdraw my original question. thankyou
  12. Susan, as a courtsey towards people willing to help you out, please post links to the images. Maybe it's just me, but I want to ensure we're talking the same thing. Matt's point on this being a community is important: you are asking people to help you, so make it as easy as possible on them to do so. We're all here by choice and because we like to - nobody is obliged to help you, so take away barriers when you can.
    If anything, I know Matt's responses as being coureous and helpful - and so are these. Don't regard them as heated or angry, but as very well-meant advice on how to get maximum benefit from a forum.
    My personal response on what any photo can do to help any cause: on their own, nothing.
    The images fit in a chain of events, that already was put in motion. They can raise or amplify awareness, and as such cause actions again. None of these images do not exist in a vacuum. And the chain of events does not start with an image - such an image would be far too shocking. A wider audience has to be ready to accept the image and the message it tries to carry out.
    So, you may want to narrow down what kind of cause and effect relationships you are really interested in. Else, I think you will just scratch the surface of the events in which these images played their respective roles, and gain little real insights.
  13. Thank you to Matt Laur and Wouter Willemse for your later comments, I tried to post the urls but made a mistake in the upload, I am sorry but this has stressed and upset me. I wish to withdraw my question.
  14. Susan: you can just post each image/site URL as plain text. Don't worry about trying to format them in any way - it'll work just fine as simple text, truly.
  15. Susan...don't give up so easily. To take things to a more personal level...I really like this site and these forums and I have had to develop a thick skin to take criticism that was more than likely well-deserved. But, by swallowing my pride and listening to what others have to say, I have learned a lot. So, hang in there, maybe rephrase your intial question(s) and be more specific. This site has a whole lot of experience among some truly master photographers and the responses you get to a well thought out query would be interesting. Don't give up!
    As to the images, would they be these?
    1) Viet Cong guerilla image, link to photographer and image:
    2) "Pieta" image, link:
    3) Migrant Mother image, link:
  16. Those are the images, thankyou. I am 54 and have not managed to grow a thick skin yet. Even though I know a lot about computers some things still cause me problems.
  17. Hey Susan - you're the same age as me. Still young!
    You said you're more focused now, so having absorbed the sound advice offered previously go rethink your dissertation and what it's actually trying to explore/examine/explain, and see if you can be more specific in the questions you want to ask us, and I'll happily reply.
    There will be wildly differing responses, thats for certain, and from them you may be able to divine some useful insights.
  18. stp


    Susan, I wish I were that young. In addition to the comments you've received (and from my perspective they were helpful), it would really help potential responders like me if you would spend a bit more time describing your dissertation's central question in greater detail. It always helps to have more background about why the question(s) is being asked, where the dissertation is headed, and what it hopes to accomplish.
  19. Oh Susan, welcome to PN! I found your last answer so refreshingly honest, it just made me laugh. These old geezers here on PN are really helpful and I can't help but think your skin just grew an extra protective layer... ;)
  20. 1. Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla 1968: Journalistic
    2. Benetton Aids Advert: Advertising
    3. The Migrant Mother: Social History
    An interesting question, Susan – glad you persevered in asking it! I see you have assigned these pictures to three separate categories, but I feel they have much in common insofar as they are all photojournalistic-style pictures which were taken for slightly different reasons but which all went on to have lives of their own.
    The execution shot was produced by the classic method of Eddie Adams being in the right place at the right time. The general doing the shooting was convinced his victim was a member of a hit squad responsible for killing numerous South Vietnamese police and their families, the balance of evidence suggests that this was the case, but the image went on to be an icon of the anti-war movement and was regarded as an example of extreme brutality, the extra-judicial killing of a civilian without due process of law. Adams is on record as saying he felt the general was misjudged by the public and regretted taking the picture.
    The Benetton ad began life as a photojournalistic image – the dying patient was an AIDS activist who readily agreed to be photographed on his deathbed, later his family agreed to the use of the picture as a Benetton ad simply to give the picture wide exposure. My personal initial reaction to this was anger and contempt that a middle-age businessman whose interests began and ended with trying to sell sweaters would attempt to suggest that this activity had some social significance, and that by inference people who bought Benetton sweaters were in some way showing that they were socially aware and caring. There was of course a heavy measure of deliberate provocation in the use of this picture, ultimately Oliviero Toscani, a photographer here acting as art director, was able to deflect criticism by stating correctly that permission to use the picture had been obtained.
    The migrant mother was one of a large number of pictures taken in the 1930s by a team of photographers employed by the Farm Security Administration, directed by Roy Stryker. The idea was to document the good work the FSA was doing in supporting destitute farmers and thus plead for more government funding. It is well documented that Dorothea Lange took several shots of the mother and children, striving to make them look as sad and woebegone as possible - the children were not keen to be photographed, the mother no doubt felt she could not say no to a representative of a body that had essentially saved her life.
    In the late 1970s, Florence Owens Thompson revealed herself to be the woman in the photo after she wrote a letter to her local paper saying that she didn't like the image. In an AP story about the ensuing flap, Thompson stated:
    “I wish she hadn't taken my picture. I can't get a penny out of it. [Lange] didn't ask my name. She said she wouldn't sell the pictures. She said she'd send me a copy. She never did."
    In addition to not taking her subject's name, Lange got something else wrong. Thompson and her family weren't typical Depression migrants at all; they'd been living in California for almost 10 years. Like all photographs, Migrant Mother is neither truth nor fiction but somewhere in-between.
    Lange probably did more good than harm by taking the picture, but even so, this picture like the other two is rather different from what it seems at first sight.
  21. Postscript to above:
    In the same month [of 1998] the U.S. stamp was issued, a print of the photograph with Lange's handwritten notes and signature sold in 1998 for $244,500 at Sotheby's New York. In November 2002 [DL died in 1983], Dorothea Lange's personal print of Migrant Mother sold at Christie's New York for $141,500. In October 2005, an anonymous buyer paid $296,000 at Sotheby's New York for the rediscovered 32 vintage, untouched Lange photos—nearly six times the pre-bid estimate.
  22. I wish to say thank you for the responses I have received they have been very helpful, thankyou for the time and trouble you have taken in responding to my question.
    I am working on the Vietmanese image. What makes an iconic image, is it that we find that the image reminds us of some kind of art. Is it to do with balance of an image or composition. Eddie Adams tells the photograph was taken at the wrong time of day, he felt the composition was not very good and the image we look at, he took while he closed his eyes. He had asked someone to tell him when it was all over.
    Can it be the fact photographs can be taken at the point of death. No other media can do this, film can capture events but it continues to the end. The photograph has captured that moment.
  23. Hi Susan - glad you're still here!
    Can it be the fact photographs can be taken at the point of death. No other media can do this, film can capture events but it continues to the end. The photograph has captured that moment.​
    Now you're getting into the meat of it I think. Photographs can indeed capture 'a moment' and that's one of the huge strengths of the medium. Film 'continues', as you note, but a still freezes a moment like a fly in aspic for it to be held up and examined closely.
    For one image to succeed so well it must have some of the following: compelling content, drama, composition, a history of events that surround it and to which it clearly relates or provides a comment on, an interaction between subject/subject or subject/content, and a 'clarity' of purpose that enables it to 'assume' at some point the 'iconic' status you mention. By 'clarity' of purpose I mean that eg Adams wanted to show the execution of a VC prisoner and there is little ambiguity in what he subsequently recorded.
    It helps that such an image can be contained in a small box on the front of a newspaper in a way that a moving film cannot. (until now with iPad, iPhone etc and other similar devices, but they still do not have the 'simplicity' of a headline news picture)
  24. Thankyou, My tutor believes sometimes it has stirred something we have seen in the past a memory of a piece of art, or a similar photograph. When I see a photo like this it stirs something in my stomach it makes me wince. I want to know more of the situation. To understand how this situation arose. We look at these photos and we are disgusted by the horror that has been captured but we continue to look at them. Why do we do that?
  25. Susan, thanks, thse last question are a nice chunk to chew on.
    Instinctively, yes, a still image is somehow more 'in your face', more dramatic and more imposing, than video, in this case. To me, anyway. Whether that is because of past memories or similarities, I wouldn't dare say. I am afraid there is a big part psychology attached to it, and I'm certainly no psychology scholar.
    So, for what it's worth - what seems to play the difference for me in non-scholarly words.
    Images, such as Eddie Adam's, basically contain the same information as a video would; my mind fills in the gaps of the missing frames preceding and following that one moment. But it is that exact one moment what it is all about - that one moment contains a whole story. And yet, it doesn't. It's frozen, still, on its own. We imagine what came before and what will follow, but we recognise that exact moment, and what it means (or will mean).
    A video seems more real maybe, but it also passes that exact moment, and it conveys the action happening; the photo just conveys the utter horror of the moment. We cannot tear away because we recognise the raw emotion of that moment. With video, we want to go away because we do not want to see the action. (Maybe I should replace "we" with "I", but this is how I perceive video versus photo in cases like these)
    When I was reading your Nov 15, 2011; 08:44 a.m. post, I had to think of the scene of the movie JFK where Kevin Costner repeatedly shows the Zapruder movie. And at the end, he stops the movie running, leaving the exact moment where JFK got hit.
    Always when I see this, the Zapruder movie material intrigues me (as in "what really happened there?", "how would I react if I stood there", the normal questions). And the second the image is frozen, the horror of that event strikes me. Not those secondary thoughts above, but the raw idea of the event.
    I think that's the effect. Not a matter of composition, lighting, well-crafted cinematography or photography - but the exact depiction of a drama. Rudely said, timing is everything here.
    Only once in my life I shot a video. I did not like it at all, because all the time I was looking for that moment, that precise moment to squeeze the shutter. Only to be reminded by the LCD panel of the videocam that I recorded that one moment, and a next one already passed. In my mind, there were about 10 good photos in that timespan; instead I had one hour of video.
    Probably I focus too much on the video-photo comparison, but well, I hope with this detour to explain a bit what makes a photo work for me, within the context of photos you described.
  26. Another point to ponder, and one which has concerned working photographers greatly, is the contrast between the Eddie Adams picture and the shot of Jane "Hanoi" Fonda sitting on the AA gun mount, which appears on this page:
    The US military accorded virtually unrestricted access to all combat areas to press representatives, which meant that images which would take on iconic significance, such as the Eddie Adams shot, the little girl caught in the napalm attack photographed by Nick Ut, etc. , were published without hindrance of any kind. Meantime the North Vietnamese kept an iron grip on the media, helping foster the idea in the minds of war protesters back in the USA and elsewhere that the NVA were boy scouts. Never again were press people to have such access to combat zones - in many wars (Falklands, 2nd Gulf war) access was so restricted that reporters were hardly able to work at all.
  27. Thankyou, your replies have helped a lot. It always amazes me the stories behind an image.
  28. To understand the impact of a single photograph it is probably worthwhile contemplating the effect of this moment on the three most involved - the victim, the South Vietnamese general, and the photographer. Obviously the victim's life was changed in a heartbeat, but because of this photo the lives of the other two participants changed forever. The impact was felt broadly, with the disquieting effect on everyone's feelings about the war, but for these two it was a turning point in their lives, and even as they passed away (one of them here in northern Virginia, within a few miles of where I am today) it was the thing most-discussed in their life stories. I think the "frozen" moment discussed above is one of those "what-if" sequences we consider in life, and for these three the what-ifs include "what if this picture had never been taken".ễn_Ngọc_Loan
  29. In a morbid twist of Bresson's decisive moment the the most synical 'prize' of war photojournalism has been to capture the moment of death. Robert Capa was long believed to have been first in his image of the falling soldier in the Spanish Civil war,_Death_of_a_Loyalist_Soldier.jpg but now that is in dispute. If you take Edie Adams image out of context because I think much has been said regarding its influence on the politics of the Vietnam war at that time it remains an iconic image in that it captures the moment of death. It might be interesting to find out how many moment of death images there are? Outside of film captures it is very rare. The only other one that comes to my mind is of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot.
  30. Thankyou to every one for all your help
  31. "Can it be the fact photographs can be taken at the point of death. No other media can do this, film can capture events
    but it continues to the end"

    I don't think so. I have been mulling this over and was thinking about the Chinese Toddler and this image. Contrasting moving film/video to a photo.

    I was a toddler when the photo was taken. So I don't remember it as much as I do the film. I can imagine that those
    contemporary could see or view the image over and over in whatever print form it was published in, while the film would have aired once at the time(and may have been censored in the way that the Chinese Toddler video was not aired by mainstream news).

    When I see the photo, I envision the blood spurting from his head after the shot(from the film). This being available to
    me through documentaries, after the fact, and not the nightly news which may have run once or twice at the
    time. Additionally, the photo is relatively safe and gorefree, thus accessible to a larger audience(the film being more restricted in audience).

    Thinking about the Chinese Toddler video and comparing, I don't think there is a single frame itself that can convey the ghastly effect of the video in its total. I don't really have any appreciation for the photo itself other than as an icon or avatar of the full execution seen via film. The film has a much bigger impact on me, more memorable, and contains almost all of the context of the scene; where as the photo, without additional outside context, is pretty crappy in my estimation standing alone.
  32. Given this IS a photography forum the images Susan related her initial question/query to are in fact iconic images and should require no specificity. As subscribers no one should need a link of reference to know the images in question, however, failing that any and all confusion can in fact be avoided simply by titling a good search with Susan's reference points and these iconic images will in fact appear.

    I'm sure Susan can google all she likes about these images but perhaps she's simply asking YOUR opinion hence the thread. The questions aren't difficult to answer, they require no over zealous philosophical approach, just a reflective opinion.
    Now, my views are that the images represent historical references and ongoing world issues (even if the images were based on specific points in time). That to me makes the images timeless. Their publication has helped create an awareness of human tragedy and suffering without victimising individuals (within those images, although I do find the Migrant mother image somewhat questionable in that regard). They represent a collective focus and awareness.

    The Benneton image in particular (as with much of Oliviero Toscani's images commissioned by Benetton) were designed for maximum advertising impact, hence why they remain iconic images. They hit their mark

    The Migrant Mother is an image I personally feel need not have been promoted (notice I haven't use the term "need not have been published") to the degree it has because it DOES represent the specific suffering of an individual in an attempt to focus on a social issue (personally I think a faceless subject has greater impact).

    Execution of a Viet Cong Guerrilla 1968: Journalistic represents the quintessential photojournalism image. I'm sure that in a morbid sort of way it has inspired many a future photojournalist. What makes that image more powerful isn't just its subject matter but the power the medium of photography has/had in bringing the rest of us the news of the time (unlike today's digital age where news is at our fingertips).
    Did any of these images help promote the "cause"? I guess that depends on who you ask, the photographer in question or the publicist in broadcasting
    Perhaps those that feel the need to undermine the intent of the initial thread should refrain from replying.

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