Sure, Kateryna says, the video might be a bit on-the-nose but the question still gets asked: what responsibility to producers of visual images have when they're in the field? Does the photo itself reproduce the violence? Can violence be transmitted visually? What should be our priority: documenting the event, creating an emotion, or depicting the larger context? And when we try to show the truth of violence and war, do the ends justify the means? Documentarians ask themselves these questions or are confronted by them. Sometimes unwillingly.
Then there's the question about whether or not repetition desensitizes us to certain visual realities. Newspapers often prep their New Year articles with a report including typical pictures from what happened over the previous twelve months – the same images (or types of images) get recycled so much that by the end they become something like a visual cliché.
And conflict zones have their very own clichés, but before she goes into them Kateryna wants to talk about a few different problems facing photographers who work on the front lines. First they know, in the back of their minds, that editors like to buy and print photos that fit these clichés – sometimes they even prepare a checklist. Which is why some photographers decide not to work with media outlets at all.
Then there's the question of whether or not photography's just an illustration for an article. Or is it documentary in its own right? Some mix of both, or something else? In what ways can this affect how photographers shoot an image, and how it gets marketed?
Of course then there's the issue of access – there are so few photographers working in East Ukraine, for example, that it's hard for media outlets to get fresh images. They often buy photos from the Associated Press
. Which is simpler, but it means that we're flooded with the same images for articles that are completely different. How are we treating photography when we're doing this?
In a media ecosystem where people feel huge pressure to print (or post), we sometimes make mistakes – there have been cases when photos from old wars were used like they were from Donbas. There was a picture of a Syrian kid, maybe eight years old, standing close to some ruins. Someone printed it and said it was at the Donetsk airport – it circulated all the way through global media channels until someone realized there was a mistake. Or, in another case, there was a photo of a super-aggressive woman protesting near tanks. After a week they realized it was made in Chechnya. In 1994.
For three years, she says, they've had a good system for checking photos but before that it wasn't so developed. And every minute you spend on checking, you're constantly having to fight the thought that someone else might steal your scoop. A Google image search is often enough, but sometimes it's trickier.
She flips through a list of the most common war images: