Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Soft Conversation on Hard Subjects- a story of images, part-2


A PROPOSITION










































































A conversation on state of affairs.


Mr X: The image 'true' symbolizes the death of sovereignty in India.

Mr Y: The image 'false' does not exist in India.

Mr X: You don't seem to value human life and the innocent who lost their loved ones.

Mr Y. I do sir… I can understand their emotions. Long back, my best friend was shot in front of my eyes, from a point blank range- on his head. I didn’t know the word terrorist then...all I could muster to the cops was that a human had shot him. Neither did I know that he would not return, and only his images in my memory would accompany me. I bet you never heard about the gunshot though. It came from a remote corner that is often not part of media focus. So I do understand the emotions and grief of losing someone, especially, if they were shot in front of you. And it’s even sadder when soon the image of their grief is lost and only remains part of personal memories.

Mr X. But can’t you see India is burning….it’s a fact. I understand as a kid you don’t know what is good or bad; perhaps, that is why you were confused in your identification.

Mr Y. I do sir, but I know my story would seem like a fantasy. A fiction. Because no one has read, heard, or saw about it in the television or cinema. And I know it can’t be made into a fact hence it may be nonsense.

No sir, it was not that I could not see who is the good guy or who is a bad guy, but I was having a crisis of language. That is something directly related to the crisis our media seems to be facing, because we keep referring to events in manner that is not directly correlated to the image. It’s not that, as a kid, I dint know. We all seem to be born with an underlying knowledge of the language, it’s just that no one pin-pointed to me what object stands for what. But you see, the person looked like human so he was definitely a human and he shared a family resemblance to so many of us. But now when I look back- he was militant -that can translate into let’s say a terrorist or whatever a person wants to call it.

So when we all feel, or refer and the mass-media does too regarding such an event of terror as an event resembling our movies, drama or spectacle. I think they both share the same resemblance then. That’s why one could identify two distinct phenomenon with the same "meaning". Else, I don’t know how it’s possible.

Mr X. In the aftermath of terror and grief there is no time for fact and fantasy.

Mr Y. I can’t help it sir, I have been born and brought up on escapism. It’s in my nature to fantasize what I have grown up watching and seeing through transmission and projection. I forgot to tell you sir, that just two days after we were all shocked, I saw two men sitting and having butter chicken on the image of the same image of truth. So, I was confused…does that mean death to the image?

Mr X. I don’t understand your inquiry. You people are useless and good for nothing, all talks and no actions.

Mr Y. Yeah true … no action, that’s why our NSG and Fireman reached late respectively, a lot of innocent lives were lost because of that. Did you read about these things?

Mr X: No, No, you’re always talking about negative things. See how hard they fought and saved innocent lives. That is more important than looking at the negative aspect of everything. Without their help many more lives would be lost.

Mr Y. No sir, I completely see on both side of the prism. But it’s sad that you may not have known about it. There are plenty of images that never reach you. Did you know that? Beside if they really fought hard,' Do you know remember their faces or names'. But see what has transmission done to the faces of the terrorist.

Mr X: I don’t care we must fight back so that we can live freely.

Mr Y: Yes sir, I completely agree with you, innocent lives should not be lost. But who will be saving so many innocent lives that never reach us and cause more death than the current attack.

Mr X: What is past is past, all I know, that we must become aware and fight terror. Did u read that Amitabh Bachchan had slept with a pistol under his pillow?

Mr Y. I did sir, it was national news. Thank god, he did...don’t you think. I was very happy that day. I went all the way and made a call to my dad. He used to narrate me the same incident. That each time he slept in Assam he kept a pistol under his head, my uncle in Kashmir said the same, and so did my cousin in Bihar while living there in the early 80s and 90s. But I don’t think you know about it? Do you? Such images would be hard to find, it belongs to the common man. But my dad was happy, you see; to hear the news, because for the first time he felt he was close to his superstar, irrespective of the fact- he had seen all his films. Maybe, our side of movies offer different form of escapism than South Indian films. Because, I think, there is still innocence in their devotion and loyalty, because even in their naiveness there is a sense of hope. And that’s the beauty of life. A rickshawallah watching a Bollywood film would not believe that his superstar would change his life, but in South they do…and it does happen that a change take place. Perhaps, that is the only time when the structure of language of devotion and the pictorial representation of distorted reality meet at a common ground that of, a truth. Truth that a change is required and can be achieved, else you wouldn’t see Cheeranjeevi too joining the political bandwagon and receiving immense support.

Mr X. But it’s our media that makes the common man a hero…and see how they help them. Beside Bihar has always been like that… Good to see your father being happy. But couldn’t he identify with the emotions that he saw in films?

MR Y. I agree, that the media does that all the time . But they soon will be forgotten and this common man’s fate is no different from the fate of a contestant of Indian Idol. You know the type of 15 min of fame, when you go for their auditions. Do you remember the names of any victims or soldiers of Kargil War? Or how about the bus driver who saved many lives in the bomb blast in Delhi? Or how about the security personnel who fought to save the lives of our beloved democratic politicians.

That is a sad thing to say sir, I know, you’re not aware what is happening there in terms of improvement- the images are usually absent. That is the reason, a number of times, people tell me- that girls are raped in Bihar or people don’t go out of the houses. Neither of which is true. But you can’t blame people, they talk what they are fed, and the truth never reaches and the absence keeps on mounting.

No, no sir, he could... as a matter of fact, he always did- but he took it lightly, the images he saw forced him to believe what he saw, and he dint’ feel like a free man. Till the time he was in the theater he took things, once he left, the images ceased to exist. Inside the theater your a hostage.

But, yesterday, when we spoke, his voice echoed with a joy of a free man. Sadly, there was no transmission and projection involved; yet again, a pure humane verbal communication. The likes of which are not usually heard. Maybe radio still holds some truth.

Mr X. Hmmm, I don’t know, but the media do remember our heroes. Don’t you think? They are special programmes devoted to them

Mr Y: Yes, they do… for sure, only when a next calamity strikes. Soon the media would analyze what is at hand, and what happened before. Past Vs Present, a speculation for history; then a short story (montage) of image of heroes would be there. Perhaps, through shot/reverse shot. Through the story of cinema, and even a detailed study proposal would be prepared for the future. But it's all fruitless.

Since, nothing would happen. Stories don’t translate into the faces of nation. That is the reason why you won't remember the faces of any of our heroes, and that is also a reason you won't remember most of what is seen in cinema today. Mind you, this is only related to the common man. Beside have you seen the programmes closely? If you have not, you should, they often resemble Bollywood.

Mr X: What common man? In death there is no common man? There is sadness…and let’s not go back to cinema and media, everyone has the right to enjoy what they want to, and you can’t be dictating what others want to watch. Beside it’s not a question about Bollywood, the fact is that someone is anyhow talking about things, and that is most important.

MR Y: Exactly sir, that’s why... I want my right like everyone else. If people have the right for escapism, I should be given a choice to choose between them. I can’t be watching New York on National Geographic and except my cinema to show me the same New York as their selling point. How can on one hand information be put on the same plane of exhibiting pornography. Beside you’re spot on sir…in death there is no common man, that is why I wish, that when a common man dies, his news should be on the same balance, and should be bombarded in the same manner when a superstar gets cough or cold.

Let’s not celebrate the idea that most people take shelter in the “exception” when they have nothing to say. So when you say." Look at our cinema what crap they make," people would point out the exception among thousand to say, ' Look we do something good or hide behind escapism'.

Similarly, the case of the ‘media’ you are talking about, it’s like everything is fine till the time you talking about things in the manner we have always been shown. Because, what difference does it make? Sooner or later it’s going to be forgotten- escapism is the word. So feed them the way it’s always been done. No one is going to bother question and we can take shelter in the exception.

Mr. X: Why do you put this as pornography? Beside, stop making utopian dreams…you don’t have any experience of life; all this inquiry is fine on paper, but in real- life, when you don't have money, and dying of hunger. Then you will realize. And shoot a Bollywood film and show any form of news.

Beside, people are coming together to fight and speak out as a voice. See the positive side, things are changing and they are changing for good.

MR Y: Why not sir, the location of mainstream cinema is sold to us as an object of fulfilling our desire and it’s no different from prostitution.

Beside I agree, it could be an utopian dream to seek an order of balance and choice, but at least there is a dream. If 1857 didn’t exist I’m sure 1947 wouldn’t either. It’s important to dream…and why should we just dream in the manner everyone else evokes us to dream. Is ‘dreaming’ too part of censorship? Perhaps, it is, else we wouldn’t be producing so many dissatisfied engineers, doctors and many more people who always wanted to be someone else. That means our lives itself is a form of censorship not form the media or cinema, but from ourselves. We hide behind who we are, not from the fear of rejection, but from the fear of neighbors.

I know this romanticized fantasy itself could seem esoteric to a social class that has always been told- that without money there is no survival, as a matter of fact- for all of us, at this point in conversation I know, I'm lost... maybe sad.

I’m happy that we are working together to foster a voice for a change, but it’s a long arduous journey, so the real result about this “ voice” can only be said or spoken one year down the line.
Beside sir, everyone has their own way of dealing with change, but among the various salient features put forward to the government for a change, we must also question our own beliefs and change the way we see things. That can only happen if a “choice” slowly evolves in our media and cinema.

Mr X: But the question is why would anyone listen to what you have to say? Who are you? I mean you’re nothing

MR Y: First, I find it funny sir…that people tend to ask this question or propose this question to each other so many times during the course of their lives. I thing they tend to forget that beneath the color of their skin we made from the same skeleton. I agree sir, I’m nothing, and neither can you define who you are. Perhaps, you could, but that would only be your institutional laden CV. As a human being, I’m sure you don’t know yourself either. You’re a specialist of something, except for yourself. So that puts you in the same platter as me…a mere human being, as people derogatorily put their own fellow human being.

MR X: I’m a politician, a superstar, a man of many credentials.

MR Y: Thank God, sir, you said that...it makes me happy, because you exist because of us. Without us, you’re nothing. You’re status and your life.

Mr. X: That is not true….seriously…not true.

Mr. Y: Sir, a philosopher who you may not know, and whose name I think, would be pointless naming here since it would be forgotten said, “what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence”. So, I don’t think you have a problem of language?

Mr. X: See the idea is that, we were here or rather I was here, to discuss about your proposition of the images you have (I don’t know what they mean) but it' s definitely not the truth, because it’s like you put an image of Karan Johar and Ekta Kapoor as “Fact” and who is the man on the right with children? Whom you labeled as fiction, but all this things have nothing to do with the realities and horrors of our life.

MR Y: I do agree sir, that we were here to discuss the idea behind looking at images ,from our everyday life. I mean, personally, it’s amazing that we are able to deconstruct, store, retrieve thousands of images that are bombarded towards us. But what is even more surprising that the ‘absence’ of what is not there is never brought out.

I know sir you identify the people on the left of Mr Johar and Ekta Kapoor, because they matter to us, and the man, yes the man, the faceless man on the right…I think you may not know him because he is absent from the gaze of media or cinema.

But you can’t help it...It’s sad that one can’t look for a person even when one does have the language to name rather a ‘word’ to refer to as an object. Sad, that you can’t google, you can’t ask anyone and can’t even express. And if you do, there is no reciprocation…that’s when one feels there is no democracy. Because if we all believe that communication is a two-way process, how come we never bothered questioning the age old tradition of the mass-media feeding us like babies. Or why Dr Binayak Sen is still in jail, and how come so much of support shown for him is absent from the large part of our population consciousness. And never heard by the political parties in India

It’s such a helpless situation. Ironically, I know it wouldn’t belong to you, but it directly belongs to the experience and expression of people like him whom you can’t identify.

MR X: I don’t buy your hypothesis or whatever it is, beside, I don’t agree to anything you have laid out, it's false, it's pretence and definitely baseless.

Mr Y: I knew that this could signal the end of our discussion sir; it’s always like this, people believe that the moment there is a disagreement… the greatest boon given to the instinct of mankind to hide behind the subjective “ I” arrives. So this is no different…it’s okay if you don’t buy my a priori.

A Story of Images- Part 1

11 comments:

sushant kaura said...

It is true that the human mind relate things to the fantasies( or movies) of every day life. And it is the MEDIA who relates the things. The TRUE and FALSE are the media given things, all that is shown is truth. The things shown by media get the tag of true n which are shown but not given impotence is false. Great work BRO!!!

Anuj Malhotra said...

Our cinema screen today is not a mirror,its a portal to a world to which we aspire.

You have rightly observed the phenomenon of 'the death of the common man'. Its the bane of our selective coverage today. The hypodermic syringe working overtime. We believe what we are fed, and even in a democracy, are so powerless.

We live in a state of denial, where we hate what we see in a mirror, and so we replace the mirror, rather than work on ourselves. We hold ourselves in contempt. We do not enjoy stories that might depress us, and thus, even the realistic, common man cinema that we like has the protagonists winning, or assuming a higher status than in what he is. A status that we aspire to.

Yes, our cinema is about our aspirations rather than hard facts, and it also stems from another essential factor : our constant need for a 'idol', an 'icon' or a 'hero'. We love the concept of personalities, and feel the need to attach personalities to events. That gives us a sense of assurance, without which, we are lost.

For instance, Godhra riots to the Narendra Modi, 1984 to the Indira Gandhi, 1991-92 economic turnaround to Manmohan Singh... We need to associate a person with an event, and the simple characteristic of our personality is exploited.

However, I have one question. I fail to understand your emphasis on 'images', which infact, is restricting it, in a way, to only the televised or cinematic media, when infact, the problem spreads over our entire media spectrum, and finds its roots deep into our psyche. Doesn't it seem like there's a greater mechanism at work? Its not an intrinsic responsibility of images to tell the truth. Images, for instance, of the ladies protesting against rape(assume related to the AFSPA 1958 act), need to be supplemented by a voiceover(audio), a blurb/ticker/flash(text) and a theme(music) to convey the gravity of the issue. Discuss please.

nitesh said...

Interesting point you have brought forth, Anuj. You’re quite right that the problem spreads over our entire media spectrum. For me, through the continuation of the first post, the idea was to look at ‘ images’ in general, but the aspect of television and cinema takes a centre-stage because they have the most important mechanism to reach to the largest number of people and affect them. And usually the enquiry in the large aspect of the media is directly proportional to the images of television. The enquiry in most of our media is predominately based on the foundation laid forth by television. Hence, an image of let’s say a scandal broken on a news channel, would later be followed by different aspects of the media. The gaze of the other news stories could change in representing the facts and fiction of the televised spectacle, but the foundation cannot be broken, because the image has already been directed once towards our own psyche. But, I can’t deny that exception exists and they would always do, but we also cannot ignore the dominance of cinema/television.
So, personally, that is my field of interest, yes…but it’s definitely something that I don’t want to restrict myself towards. Let’s see where the subsequent posts lead in terms of an inquiry. It’s a long process or learning and understanding.

@ anuj...Its not an intrinsic responsibility of images to tell the truth. Images, for instance, of the ladies protesting against rape(assume related to the AFSPA 1958 act), need to be supplemented by a voiceover(audio), a blurb/ticker/flash(text) and a theme(music) to convey the gravity of the issue. Discuss please.

Images itself, and a number of time, does not need an external source of supplements to evoke truth. . It’s the intrinsic quality of image that it evokes truth but since an image is dependent on the gaze under whom the image was taken, and the recipient of the image, that the truth of the image shifts. This is precisely where the word ‘responsibility’ comes in. So an image has the intrinsic quality, but the ‘responsibility’ determines its final shape. But this does not mean the image is not responsible to tell the truth, because without the presence of the image there would be no evidence to supplement as truth. Hence, it’s in its nature to tell the truth. Interestingly, nature does not determine the shape and nurture of the final image. Through the passage it can retain its intrinsic quality to tell the truth or become a second -image. It’s like saying all children are born equal and are responsible to tell the truth, but when the burdens of responsibility shifts from school, to parents, to circumstances(supplements) the “ truth” gets hidden behind “circumstances” and becomes the second-image. So I may be speaking the truth, but it won’t be the reality to what has happened, and definitely it was not in my nature that I could not speak the truth, but it’s the nurture and the supplement that forced me to shift focus of the truth.

Any form of an external reference to the image is an act of helping us look towards it for an inquiry. But “inquiry” is different from “story” when an image is taken and packaged with the catharsis of drama it tends to become a mockery. So, if I take two distinct images that may not have any relation but place them together as an inquiry with the external reference of shot/reverse shot and text- the analogical thinking is helping in looking at some form of truth. So in this case the images are not responsible in evoking truth, but it’s the supplement that helps us bring forth a tautology. But if taken alone the image does have the intrinsic quality to talk about the truth. Depending again on what truth is one looking for or looking at. So a picture of Karan Johar is a picture of Karan Johar- a truth.


But if I take the same image of rape and put a Bollywood sad song, and bombarded with countless headlines the image disappears beneath the spectacle of drama. Because than the image does not remain the image, it becomes the song, the text and everything to convey the gravity. It could make a momentary impact but fails to solve the larger goal it did seeks for. So coming back to the point, we must first understand, where, what and why is the image being used in order to understand the medium, mode or supplement to consider for an image. Here the cliché works quite well, a picture speaks a thousand words of truth, but if I show a picture of a poor boy in to most people it would not bother.


But if I write my “My son” and show him, he will think, it’s ideally because such pictures have become absence from our own attachment towards them. We seem them every day that the images become redundant. That’s why a supplement takes place to help us re-attach our self to the image, but in most if not all, cases today it distances us to the point where we cannot take it anymore.


Hence, “responsibility” itself confers towards two distinct schools of thought, first towards providing the truth of a picture, and second in providing truth towards the viewer supplemented with different pretence to expose the gravity of the situation. The former informs hence the picture itself without any form of external evidences takes the quality and responsibility of disturbing us, terrifying us and making us think. For example, the picture of Bhopal Gas Tragedy shot by Raghu Rai gives us this chilling atmosphere and becomes responsible. And evokes the gravity of the situation. The same image bombarded towards with plenty of supplements does arouse the same feeling, but it than gets supplemented and pushed behind the products of supplements and becomes a by-product. So it becomes a fuzzy photograph of the truth. That is soon forgotten. Although, they belong to the same pool of family of resemblance.


In the end its how one uses various forms of supplement to arrive or find the same nucleus of truth intrinsically part of the image that makes the image sublime and speak out. Else, every other form of mechanism of supplement used to bring out the truth degrades the images into something that we just don’t want to see again.

Anuj Malhotra said...

Your reply clears up a few issues, while confusing a few others. We tend to digress from the topic of interest, if only slightly.

"And usually the enquiry in the large aspect of the media is directly proportional to the images of television."
Here, and through the paragraph that contains these lines, you direct your focus towards the spirit of enquiry and an ethical approach in journalism, and away from your examination of the intrinsic and inherent nature of images themselves.

The way I perceive your first para, we are both lamenting the lack of proper coverage given to real and deserving issues by news channels in the country. And in doing so, we are both basically confirming our satisfaction with HOW the images are presented, and then directing our anger or ire towards WHICH images are presented to the public. Which means, we are fine with images which show Karan and Ekta together, and we are fine with the presentation of THOSE images, but are not elated with the fact that instead of the aforementioned images, images reflecting our real concerns are not being shown. That, to be more precise, we are happy with the gaze itself, but not with its direction.
By doing so, the debate suffers from two issues at hand-:
1) We are more or less confirming that images are but a mere tool in the reporter's/news channel's hand in presenting his story. Its just a device, and nothing else. So our problem is not with the images, but with which of them are being presented.
2) In that case, we are not talking of the nature of images themselves, but what the subject of those images are. Then, we are expressing our concern about the degradation of journalistic ethics in the country, about the commercialisation of news as such, and then our debate ceases to be about ONLY images. Then, our debate has become similar to saying,
"The text is brilliantly, brilliantly written. BUT, its about the Abhishek-Aishwarya marriage, and so, it cannot be counted as literature."

I would, thus, suggest a new course for the debate. Lets, for instance, take the coverage of the Mumbai terror blasts, and JUST that coverage, and check the issues plaguing the images within that coverage.

"The gaze of the other news stories could change in representing the facts and fiction of the televised spectacle,"

Important. Will come back to it later in the debate in terms that are not literal.


"Images itself, and a number of time, does not need an external source of supplements to evoke truth."
No. I disagree. Speaking in terms of news coverage, images need to be supplemented with a context. Without a context, they are not truth and they are not lies, they are just random representations of some thing that exists. So if you see the Niagara Falls in an image, and you do not know its the Niagara Falls, then for you, its just a simple waterfall. But when you are told, then a context is generated, and then you can associate the image with THE Niagara Falls that you'd, maybe, read about earlier. Thus, while admittedly, an image will always tell a truth; without a context to contain it, the audience will not receive the truth.

Speaking in a similar vein, when you talk of Rai's coverage of the aftermath of the Bhopal tragedy, if you watch a photograph from his collection, and are not aware of its nature as that being of one of the victims, for you, its a simple photograph of a person crying. And you can further, maybe, appreciate it for its technical sharpness, but when you are supplied with the context, i.e the Bhopal Gas tragedy, the photo tells you a new, and truer, truth.

Similarly, the blurbs, the audio, and the text accompanying a news coverage cannot be done away with, since they are basically there to provide the context to the image. The fact that they are over-dramatised, and sensationalised, is a topic that does not need debating. We all know that. But my disagreement is on the fact, that images, alone, in a news coverage, are adequate to tell the truth.


About them supplying the element of 'inquiry', it again boils down to how these tools are used, and ethics in journalism, both topics, which are, in my view, outside the concern of our debate.

This is it for now. Discuss, and do tell me if I have missed any point that you made.

nitesh said...

@anuj... It seem to me that you have completely taken things somewhere else, and maybe missed some of my points and made some other judgements so let me go back to them..

Your Question was:
1) Image does not have the intrinsic responsibility to tell the truth?

My answer was: Image does have the nature; it’s something within the genes of an image. But I further added that the various external references that are used determine the shift of truth of the image. Through its context and practice. And defined the different responsibility that shapes the image.

Let takes Raghu Rai example again, could be said for the Nigara Falls to as images:

If I show someone one of his pic from Bhopal gas tragedy without any text to support it...

He/ she would say whose picture is this? Where were the picture taken, and what picture is this and few queries?

Now this query was possible because it was the image that was responsible to expose the truth, hence the language that was structured or is structured by us is directly related to the objects at hand within the image.

So the context of truth “told” and the context received did not come out of the some sub-conscious surreal world of the speaker and receiver but from the image.

So the image as you put admittedly will tell the truth, but the context of the speaker determines the “nature” of its truth, and the final “nature” of the image received by the reader, viewer or an audience.

2) To pick a line within the “context” and write you disagree, completely takes the essence of everything? This is the line you picked?

"Images itself, and a number of time, does not need an external source of supplements to evoke truth."

And you write about your query on news. But whatever you write is already agreed before. So you dint read what was at hand. The sentence you picked does not affirm or completely ignores the idea that images does not need external reference.

Hence your disagreement is futile.

4) However, I have one question. I fail to understand your emphasis on 'images', which infact, is restricting it, in a way, to only the televised or cinematic media, when infact, the problem spreads over our entire media spectrum, and finds its roots deep into our psyche. Doesn't it seem like there's a greater mechanism at work?

- my answer was that any form of inquiry has to have first the base of interest for a person to start form somewhere and move somewhere. One cannot be random and do anything and start anywhere. Beside one can’t do that unless a genius. So when I look at images and examine and think about it and then write about it it’s a manner of writing essay, criticism that is no different from journalism. And it’s definitely not going away from looking at images. Because, mind you, the posts are a “ story” to look not just at “ images” because that is precisely what I can’t do, but the drama that surrounds it.

So the “text” you use to deconstruct and form the long argument again is pretty futile. The reason being that I was talking in the context that “ Why”, “ Me” was going through the television/cinematic route and not looking at everything. But it’s always about look at a point and then moving further.

Hereby, I completely din’t understand where you took the context of my reply. Where I was talking about why my personal interest in choosing a field of research and then chasing the beautiful lay…you picked a line, and started a query that is completely out of context.

-The discussion does not suffer from anything you mentioned, but you seem to be deviating and going off-topic in most of the key places without understanding what has already been said. Because, when I look at images it does not restrict me to just the image, but the cliché again an image speaks a thousand words so one further goes behind what, where and how the thousand words came into the image itself- it’s like chasing beauty.

-I would, thus, suggest a new course for the debate. Let’s, for instance, take the coverage of the Mumbai terror blasts, and JUST that coverage, and check the issues plaguing the images within that coverage.

Well, it’s an interesting proposition, hopefully we will look at “coverage” in details in times to come, but for starters I have already begun the coverage and issues plaguing the image within the coverage. I suggest you read the last and this post again; maybe you could get a better grasp of what are the issues of images I was talking about and particularly interested in.


And, yeah there is seriously a great mechanism at hand as you had put in your question. That is the reason an enquiry into an image takes us to different elements to look at them again and agian, a process at looking at issues " plauging" the images.

Anuj Malhotra said...

We are essentially swinging on our convenient pendulum between investigating the nature of the image - which you study with an elaborate, academic perspective; and the bane of images in news coverage - something we study with a practical approach based on our experience.

a)Image
b)Image in news

Isn't there a clear difference? I am sure of an image's intrinstic quality to tell truth. Everyone understands and appreciates the fact that an image is basically capturing/recreating something that essentially exists, and in that nature, it is telling some truth.

Image in news. If you read carefully what I wrote, I wasn't speaking so out of context as you seem to have perceived.

"Image does have the nature; it’s something within the genes of an image. But I further added that the various external references that are used determine the shift of truth of the image. Through its context and practice. And defined the different responsibility that shapes the image."
I have copied the entire para and not a few lines so as to not appear futile to your case. The external references, and the 'shift in responsibility' that you reiterate 5 times, is essentially a feature of news coverage, do we agree on that? A normal random image in a photo album is neither burdened with that responsibility, and as a result, with the external references which help to fulfil it. Its just an image. A simple image that exists in vaccum, taken 25 years ago, and when a viewer sees that, its his own responsibility to inquire about the history of the photo. A point you have already made. And in THIS scenario, the intrinsic ability of the image to tell the truth has been evoked but the curiosity it arouses in the viewer to examine the history behind it. Who the heck is even debating that?

But this blog post began with the use of images in news coverage. And there, in that context, I was talking about how the external tools help generate a context to what the image really represents. And you said that those external tools are used irresponsibly and create drama and sensationalism instead of truly bringing the photo into its context and generating a spirit of questioning within the viewer. We were basically both speaking of the same thing, there was hardly any case of agreement/disagreement on that regard.

MY disagreement was with the instances of you clearly mixing up two different things : images themselves in vaccum, such as in a photo album; and the usage of images in a news coverage. You say that the intrinstic ability of an image to tell the truth should be used in a news coverage, while I claim that images are only a part of news coverage and need to be supplemented with external context, and is not alone enough to generate enquiry in an off-hand way. Whether the viewer here is lazy is another question.

So, in order for this discussion to carry on, lets first appreciate the difference between an isolated image, and the use of images in news coverage. Both are separate discussions, and should function on different planes. Lets not keep mixing them, and we should discuss either one or the other. You tell me which.

P.S - Also, lets not keep making the other person realise how what he/she wrote is futile, because these are hardly definite thoughts that are being presented here. We will write and write and as such reach conclusions, which will then evolve into a final thought on the matter. Lets not impede that evolution with our own hasty decisiveness please. A request.

Anuj Malhotra said...

Do take note.

"A normal random image in a photo album is neither burdened with that responsibility, and as a result, with the external references which help to fulfil it."
Means that a normal random image is not burdened with the responsibility of immediate event coverage like news images are.

Shouldn't be read as anything else.

nitesh said...

Thank you regular comments, appreciated…yup will make sure that I keep the disagreement between agree/ disagree.
First, my so called academic perspective is very similar or same to the practical approach based on every day experience. They are not two different identical approaches.

And my idea and notions is not based on something that is outside the approaches of practical experience primarily. My ideas may seem pedantic, but I try my best to express in the best or rather the easiest possible manner.

Good, you brought out a clearer difference- this helps now in making your judgment clearer; as to what you wanted to say, atleast to me, and your agreement of the fact that an image has its nature to tell the truth, rather has responsibility.

Now, let’s see “Image” in photo-album and “Image in news” both are essentially the same thing, the only difference that is coming is the “Presentation”. That is clear to me now when you attach the definite word news.
Maybe, I was having a problem in sense and reference to see the fact that through the comment you were speaking of the same thing.

So let’s look at your disagreement:-

MY disagreement was with the instances of you clearly mixing up two different things: images themselves in vacuum, such as in a photo album; and the usage of images in news coverage. You say that the intrinsic ability of an image to tell the truth should be used in a news coverage, while I claim that images are only a part of news coverage and need to be supplemented with external context, and is not alone enough to generate enquiry in an off-hand way. Whether the viewer here is lazy is another question.

And u later added:-

"A normal random image in a photo album is neither burdened with that responsibility, and as a result, with the external references which help to fulfill it." Means that a normal random image is not burdened with the responsibility of immediate event coverage like news images are.

U also said:-

The external references, and the 'shift in responsibility' that you reiterate 5 times, is essentially a feature of news coverage, do we agree on that?

First, there is nothing called an image in vacuum and images in news coverage. An image as the word implies through its uses and action falls under the same family resemblance of an image in news coverage. So quite necessarily they are the same thing. But when you later add words as “immediate” coverage obviously the context of examining both the images becomes different.

But that does not mean they cannot be mixed, compared, become a part of a dialogue or action. A image of solider dead in Kargil war in a photo-album can become part of a news coverage, and later both can be used again as a part of an essay to look at the images in news coverage.

You bring forth two different modules of representing an image: “photoalbulm” and an image in “news coverage”. That itself from the first comment I have laid that the “external” “mechanics “determines the context in the way images are nurtured and the final nature determined. This again as I have said earlier is largely depended on what, when and why one wants to say something through an image.

But that does not mean the “techniques” could be simply being fixated on news coverage. Today, it’s used from photography down to news and back to the normal user who plans out his photo album in the age of digital media or even a collage or scrapbook.

So I don’t agree with the fact that shifts in responsibility and external reference is just an essential feature of news coverage.

Beside, let’s not confuse things; I mentioned that images do have the natural ability to confer truth. Hence, if used in the context of news, my idea has been to look at the technique, mechanics or supplements whatever you want to call it that is directed towards “trying” to reach that truth within the image to invoke us. And what larger role does this techniques play towards its responsibility of the image and our own social structure. So what you claim is something that I have been trying to look at from the first post itself. “ Trying” because this is an ongoing search for the question, because that is yet to be found, once the right question of an inquiry is sort half-the battle is already won.

supriasuri said...

The images have lost its meaning, perhaps the language of images, or the potential/power of images hasn't been realized. It is quite apparent the role that images can play in shaping our society, since it also draws a great number of interest by the illiterate class as well. Since we have examples as to how among the illetrate the images are such an attraction independent of the language used along with it.

The language whether its language of music, colors, image or our verbal spoken language, the dialects, all are restricted to what has been made obvious over the years. An insight beyond the fundamental idea does not exist. If we are more so talking about language of an image lets take an example from it. Image in television or cinema, the word close up just means cutting away to something close, to emphasize an object. Now the word close up and the pictorial language of close up has been understood at the banal level but what power it can hold, and its use beyond the banal meaning has never been understood quite well. Rather the evolutions have always been focussed on manipulation. The same goes for any technique or invention like a crane shot or a new sound system.
The images with this aspect have become very hollow to me.

Besides news has become a drama, where every report has a storyline/synopsis and then they expand it to the screenplay and then attach sounds and background music sometimes with a montage and to highlight further in black and white, where the producer expects a bit of facial expressions also from the anchors/actors.

We simply cant ignore our commercialzation that has been playing a major hindrance for the growth of the service sectors.the essence of service sectors have been lost, since they no longer understand the language of the medium they are using but just the selling and buying point. With this obviously the responisibilities of these service providers come down to negligible. And that inturn affects in understanding the potential of it. ( like in case of realizing value of an image)

Sachin said...

Today I had a long discussion about why there is need for "escapism" in Indian cinema and how some people, including close friends and family members, always fall back to the excuse that they need to see escapist cinema to forget things around them. In a way, I think the film industry has done an amazing marketing job in brain washing people to accept nonsense as escapism or the leave your brain at the door kind of junk.

I have felt that attitude always led to a numbing of senses when it came to cinema but always wondered if some people took that mode to everyday life. And I know some people who conform to that idea, meaning they see an image but it never penetrates their psyche and vanishes shortly. Their ability to store an image and ponder on it does not exist or they have shut that feature off after years of numbness. Or they treat everything like those mindless fantasies where even if the images persisted, they would have no thought associated with them.

Sorry Nitesh, I have not commented on your well written and thought proving entry but I have been quite bothered by this escapism argument that I see people around me getting trapped in and everytime they see something shocking, it just reinforces their need to seek more escapism.

nitesh said...

Thank you for stopping by and commenting Sachin. This is something that has been troubling me a lot. Especially, after what I saw in the news, when TV anchors were referring to the hostage drama like movies, and it felt Bruce Willis would be jumping next from the chopper.

I think this escapism attitude seems very much Indian centric (not, sure, though if such a mentality exist outside) and I don’t know why things exist the way do, but things seems to decaying with each passing day.

Thank your for comments supriya.