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In light of duck’s post on violence (against women) ‘At what point do you put down the camera and call the police’ and the moral dilemmas such situations raise, and the various responses it elicited, it might be appropriate and timely to link to this excellent post on Africa Is a Country by Linda Stupart: ‘Woman, object, corpse: Killing women through media’

 

Billboard
Billboard, Cape Town

 

In the same week that the image of Steenkamp’s body was all over our media, a billboard appeared in central Cape Town’s Kloof Street (in the photo at the top of this post). The billboard also featured the body of an abused woman or, here, a girl. It shows a young black girl curled up on her side on the floor clutching a sheet. Her underwear is above her head, her trousers are pulled down, exposing her buttocks and there is blood on her shirt. It is difficult to tell if she is dead or catatonic, but it is clear we should infer that she has been raped. Across this image are two yellow strips reminiscent of crime tape, one of which reads, ‘Underage drinking: is it worth it’. Below in bigger uppercase lettering, the text, ‘YOU DECIDE’. ……………..

The pictures of Steenkamp and the girl on the DTI billboard share a relation beyond the fact that they both image women who have been subjected to male violence. Rather, both representations enact a particular equivalence whereby a woman ceases to be a subject as she becomes a sex object (through her own volition, her ‘self-objectification’, her willful vulnerability) and then since she is already an object, slips easily into being dead, a corpse — that is the most real and fearful manifestation of objecthood: subject made thing………….

Steenkamp’s boyfriend has been photographed by a remarkable set of image-makers who have framed him as beautiful, sleek, downward-facing and painstakingly apologetic — he is an image of masculine vulnerability and poise. His image may be everywhere, now, but there is no danger of him losing his humanity. ‘Pistorius’s whole body shook and he wept uncontrollably, as if a chasm of grief threatened to swallow him,’ David Smith writes, helpfully, in The Guardian.

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

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