I have just come across a news article stating that Iraq is probably the most photographically documented war ever.
OK, you think, that is probably a good thing. Well, there’s more. What they actually refer to is the widespread personal use of digital cameras by the troops. We have already seen the torture images from places like Abu Ghuraieb prison and this phenomenon seems quite similar. It is about people picturing themselves with what can only be viewed as some sort of trophy: burnt bodies of enemy combatants, splattered bodies after suicide bomb attacks, human bodies literally shot into pieces. Next to them smiling soldiers, cracking jokes, thumbs up and all, as if we have gone hunting or fishing.
Then someone creates some sort of online forum or gallery web site, where you can submit your pictures under categories like “clean head shots” or “guess the body part”. I don’t have a link as it was not provided, and I am not keen to research, as you will appreciate.
In a way I can grasp the phenomenon, and the strange need having to photograph oneself in the most extraordinary and violent of circumstances. On the other hand, this is clearly a case of mental derailment and seriously unhealthy.
Whenever we have seen a breakdown of respect towards human dignity and life, bad things followed. Photography is an interesting medium. One reason is that all we keep looking at is an image of ourselves, the beings behind the cameras.