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What the Odyssey

or just peeking and recording of reality

Hong Kong had undergone an unpeaceful period in December 2005 before the Christmas arrived.

In Dec 2005, during the period when Ministerial Conference of WTO (World Trade Organisation) was held in Hong Kong, there were protesters coming from various oversea countries. One of the most severe group was from Korean farmers. Around the venue of the conference (Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre), Wan Chai area, traffic was blocked, many shops and schools were closed. Quite a lot of Hong Kong people went watching and photographing the protesters in Wan Chai area. Some complained about the usage of water splashing gun by Hong Kong police, and it damaged their cameras.


Look Closer on 'Interaction'

Instead of focusing on what is right and what is wrong in the incident, I am more interested on the interaction (usage of water splashing gun) of subject and photographer. In this case, the subject is the event, which is not a rehearsal or a show. It is simply happening there.

For war photographer, I don't think that there will be situation allowing him/her to ask for stopping some particular action, before reacting, to take photo, or run, or whatever. It is simply happening there, the subject, the photographer. Everything is mixed together with tremendous interaction. In some cases, such interaction can be injury, or even death.

You may think that it may be too heavy, in contrasting this with people just watching protest out of curiosity. However, I treat them the same. If photographer's role is not simple peeking and recording the reality, we should accept the possibility of interaction between subject and photographer. Wanted it or not, this possibility of interaction can be part of the subject itself. The subject and the photographer are no longer passive, but they are actively interacting with each other. (if you are interested, please also refer to this link - Street Photography, by John Brownlow )


More Than A Decisive Moment

"If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough. - Robert Capa"

However, the above may be only part of the story. Sometimes, the interaction is emotional rather than physical, and sometimes it can be much stronger than the water splashing gun. I wish to share the below 2 stories on interaction with subject.

  • "On the Miyuki bridge, 2.2 kilometers southest from the hypocenter. A little after 11am on August 6 (in 1945), some three hours after the bomb exploded over Hiroshima. Black smoke and raging flames shoot up from the heart of the city. Escaping the raging flames, the people crowed about, their seared skin hanging in strips. A police-man treats burns with oil-soaked rags. Mr Matsushige Yoshito, who took the picture said, "I could scarecely focus my camera, as my tears kept getting on the finder" - About Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima, Japan in WWII, the book - Days to Remember, an account of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

  • "I have come to the hospital to photograph a wounded young girl. Her doctor has asked me to help get the United Nations to evacuate her. Her injuries are horrible. She is in a coma and she will die soon. But she is tying up badly needed medical resources now. 'Sorry about the blood on the sheets', says a nurse and puts a plastic doll in the little girl's limp hand. It's late afternoon and the soft light coming through the plastic where the windows used to be is fading. 'It will be too dark in a few minutes', I tell myself, trying to overcome the numbing pain so I can do something. Do something. Do what? I want to stroke the little girl's cheek. Tell her she will be all right. Make everything all right. I want to curl up on the floor and cry. I want it all to go away. But it will never go away. So I do what I always do. I absorb yet another dose of it. I expose a few frames of film and myself to every nuance of the horror of a child torn apart by shrapnel. The photograph is grotesquely beautiful. I have turned a scream into music. - Morten Hvaal, Sarajevo"

If there is 'decisive moment' in photography, I believe that there will also be 'difficult moment' that a photographer will face too. As a photographer, we are human, and are affected by the events. It is normal. I think there will be some difficult situation that every photographer will be facing one day, in making the painful decision to press the shutter release button, or escape away.


More Information
Top Photo - Banyan Cafe, in Wan Chai, still opened for service as usual during the the period when Ministerial Conference of WTO was held. The business was roughly the same as usual too.



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