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Sunday, 27 March 2011


It is not possible to embark on a subject of this nature without considering the ethics behind it. Is it helpful to those who are suffering this condition to advertise this suffering in bold technicolour or are we creating something that is purely voyeuristic?
Susan Sontag argues in her book, 'Regarding the Pain of Others', states that the reaction to human suffering can range from voyeurism or indifference to sympathy. She believes that sympathy can be a negative reaction as it can lead to passivity and apathy. It can dull the senses and lead to a lack of response. She believes that if we feel sympathy we can make ourselves believe that we are not part of anything uncomfortable and so we are not accomplices. in our culture of being the spectator we are no longer shocked by anything we see.
She is talking about images of war in this instance but the ethics behind any kind of images of suffering are the same.
Sontag believes that it is not so much overexposure to such images that makes us more immune to them but the nature in which such images are use in television. This lack of attention and concentration caused by constant channel hopping ensures that we never give enough time to any one image.Our senses therefore become impaired. She believes that to have any impact images have to be displayed in context with a caption so that the viewer can awaken the correct responses.
I think that parts of this particular essay come across as quite condescending to the general public at large. It suggests that we believe that if we show feelings of sympathy we will be absolved of any guilt and we will therefore not attempt to help. This is a very simplistic view. In many instances of human suffering we are not able to change things in any way eg. a death or natural disaster, but it does not stop us feeling immense sympathy for those that have been affected.
 I can however agree that we have become slightly desensitised to images on television due to the fleeting glimpses that we have of these images of horror, but also due to overexposure that we have. I also think that she makes  a valid  point that if we have mass sympathy there is more possibility of changing things.

I have been conscious during this project of not overstepping the mark and sensationalising this medical condition or exploiting the people involved. I hope that having the interviews with the Medical professionals brings a certain gravitas to the project. There has to be a fine balance of reporting and illustrating the condition in an interesting manner without making it something that it is not.
I hope that by presenting this photographic project to a wider audience that it will be informative to the extent that it may help someone now or at a later point in their lives recognise the symptoms of PND. I also hope that by increasing awareness of this condition it may help to get people talking about it and make it less of a taboo subject, make sufferers feel less alone. Photographs and film can be powerful mediums of education not just voyeuristic pieces.

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