"I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners…I have gone to join Ken, if I am that lucky"
The Bang Bang Club is a group of four photographers that, if you’ve studied the history of photojournalism or delved into the ethics of photojournalism, is a familiar story for us.
Kevin Carter. Joao Silva. Greg Marinovich. Ken Oosterbroek.
Two of the photographers own Pulitzer Prizes. There are (as the sick joke goes) only one and a half of them left (for those of you who don’t remember, Joao Silva was severely wounded by a landmine in November and has lost both legs).
Tonight, I got to watch the movie adaption of what they went through and it was… unnerving, to say the least.
I wrote 20-page essay once on ethics and photojournalism, their relationship and the toll it takes the human being behind the lens that goes untold, ignored in favor of the suffering of those in front of the camera. I also talked about the audience’s criticism of such photos, and their view of what a photojournalist’s ethics ought to be. I talked in-depth about Kevin Carter and his famous image of the vulture and the child, how it was received and how it affected him.
The lead-off quote is taken from his suicide note. It was written 3 months after he was awarded the Pulitzer.
Later that year, I purchased a copy of the documentary “War Photographer" about James Nachtwey. In the documentary is raw footage of the gun battle that claimed Ken Oosterbroek’s life. The images of Nachtwey and Silva running behind an armored truck as it carried Oosterbroek and the wounded Marinovich away stuck with me.
And so I knew what I should expect during those scenes. Even so, there was a sickening revelation that, “I know what is about to happen,” followed by the production adaptation of the scene that I remember still. It was powerfully familiar. It was like finally putting two and two together and seeing (a movie adaptation of) what happened in the moments before and after that moment in time.
The movie was, as far as movies go, more than decent. However, it’s how close to home it hits for a student of journalism that makes the movie far more enjoyable and powerful, in my mind.
If anybody is interested in the essay I can see if I still have the digital copy of it saved somewhere on my old computer (I have a hard copy of it as well). Let me know.
In the meantime, I highly recommend watching “The Bang Bang Club.” It may not hold the same significance for you that it did me, but the movie is worth watching regardless. Kinda like “Only The Brave" was for me.
That’s all for tonight. Cheers.
P.S. NPR posted this interview a few days ago from both Silva and Marinovich as it relates to photographers being wounded and ethics in photojournalism, in light of the deaths of Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington.
You would know Hondros for this picture: