“Well fuck that, is what I say” Christopher Hitchens, duckrabbit, a festive fistful and a challenge to Falmouth UniversityWritten by duckrabbit
Part of the absurd fallout from last week’s ridiculous moment when VII’s Anastasia Taylor Lind jumped to her feet and repeatedly punched duckrabbit in the face at the LCC Masters end of year show after-party, have been the attempts behind the scenes to influence what we do or don’t say about it on our blog.
So for any of you concerned or interested, here are ten things worth knowing about duckrabbit, followed by a proposal and a challenge, neither of which involves a face full of knuckles.
1. duckrabbit is not Jesus, and although I did literally turn the other cheek, the suggestion that I should now be reaching out to somebody who initiated physical violence against me is illogical. I questioned Lind’s integrity, she responded with her fist, end of story.
2. The duckrabbit blog is founded on the principle of independence. I will defend that fiercely. It allows people to speak openly and freely about the things that they care about, the things that make then laugh, move them and also sometimes about the things that make them angry. If that makes people uncomfortable then good – it means we’re doing something right. Why do you think Conscientious is so influential? Because Joerg is not ever going to be told what to do or think by anyone. Though duckrabbitblog is different, we aspire to a similar independence of thought.
3. We’ve always engaged with the people that disagree with what we write. The blog has always offered people the right to reply, except to those who respond with their fists.
4. At duckrabbit, we don’t all think the same way. We believe in the importance of upholding and exploring contradictions – that’s why we called the company duckrabbit.
5. The suggestion has been made to me that it would be better for us to keep our mouths shut in order to ‘get on’ in the industry. I was lucky enough to spend many years as a producer at the BBC in a department where everything about our production work was open to debate. That’s what kept our programming sharp and our egos trimmed. I have also been lucky enough to work in a small capacity alongside Paul Lowe and John Easterby at LCC, both of whom, as well as encouraging and giving space in their department for critical thinking about the industry, are also two of the most active supporters of photographers in the country. Their commitment to free thinking and critical debate is, in my opinion, exactly the quality that you should look for in a University department. An industry that only allows those at the top table to ask questions is not an industry, it’s a feudal system.
6. Nobody who works with duckrabbit has the power to compromise the independence of the blog. If anybody has been given an indication to the contrary then they have been misinformed.
7. Stirring controversy is not part of our business model. We have never run a workshop in how to make money from blogging. Neither the organisations who contract us to make productions for them or our workshop participants come to us because of our blog. Around 24 million people heard our documentaries on the BBC this year. We let our production work speak for itself and that’s why people contract us to make films for them and want to train with us.
8. We’ve had the slightly odd suggestion made to us that we are the illegitimate child of the News Of The World or the Daily Mail. duckrabbit can confirm that we have not yet been called to give evidence at the Levenson inquiry. In the last 30 days we have published roughly eighty posts. You’ll find a lot about how photography empowers people with disability, but how many of those posts personally criticized an individual working in photography? The answer is none. It’s not that we are afraid to criticize individuals – it’s just that this is a rarity. In the last 30 days the only seriously critical post questioned the value of photography degrees. And we also posted a balanced response by Ciara. Let me tell you what I think. The people who consistently attempt to dismiss us in this way are the ones with the most to lose from honesty about the industry.
9. This year duckrabbit will have had 3.5 million page views, half a million visits to our feed and another half a million visits to our website. Are people really suggesting that the reason readers come here is for the rare post that challenges some of the norms of the industry and the individuals and agencies who benefit from those norms? On Tuesday Ivor Prickett told me that duckrabbit are ‘a bunch of fucking assholes’ shortly before his girlfriend lamped me for writing this post (shared over 300 times on Facebook). We respect your opinion, Ivor, just as we’ve celebrated your terrific talent. Why not come by the blog next week and we’ll see if we can persuade you to take a more enlightened view with a slice of Funky Friday?
10. Finally, I want to say that how proud I am to work at duckrabbit. What I’m most proud of is that the people at duckrabbit are the kindest, most thoughtful and caring bunch of people I’ve ever had the honor to work with – something that I draw inspiration and strength from everyday. From the dozens of emails I’ve had this week from many professional people working in the industry I am beginning to understand how much what we do is appreciated – and that means an awful lot to us all. And I promise you we won’t stop questioning and celebrating the things that are important to us.
Yesterday the great contrarian Christopher Hitchens passed away, Christopher was a hugely talented and sometimes merciless debater, a polemicist of epic proportions and also a man of contradictions. Hitchens regularly asked the sort of questions that many of us would be afraid to articulate. I rarely agreed with Christopher but you’d have to be irrational in the extreme to suggest that the world would have been better off without him. He set one of the great modern examples of just how important it is to get people on the same stage to exchange opinions and engage in reasoned debate. With that in mind – I want to make a proposal.
I’m told that Anastasia Taylor Lind, as a result of punching duckrabbit, has pulled out of giving a talk at Falmouth University that coincides with an exhibition of Guy Martin’s work from Libya. Here’s how Falmouth are promoting the exhibition:
During the spring of 2011, independent documentary photographer Guy Martin travelled to Egypt and Libya to record the unfolding Arab Spring. On Wednesday 20 April, Guy’s work in the region was cut short when, whilst covering some of the fiercest urban warfare in recent history, he was severely injured in a rocket attack by Gaddafi loyalists in the centre of the besieged Western Libyan city of Misrata. For the first time since the attack, and following a lengthy and continuing recovery, University College Falmouth’s School of Media & Performance presents Shifting Sands, an exhibition of the work produced by Guy up to this point.
The exhibition frames a series of events including a private view, a talk with eminent women photojournalists, film screenings and Guy in conversation. Each event serves to highlight the heavy price that can be paid by frontline photojournalists in the cause of documenting a country and its people’s struggle for freedom.
It’s my opinion that Falmouth have fallen into the trap of promoting the work primarily on the basis that Martin was injured. Why aren’t they promoting it on the basis that he is a bloody good photographer with a deep and powerful reason to tell the story of the people of Libya?
Reading this it seems the original post I wrote about war photography that caused all this nonsense is still relevant. An estimated 2000 soldiers and civilians died in Misrata, the city in which Martin was so seriously injured. It is, in my opinion, self-indulgent to promote any photography work about Libya on the wounding of a photographer in that city, instead of the greater tragedy faced by those people in the pictures, and it calls into question the fundamental purpose of photography.
Can we only sell it if it is about us?
Martin put his life on the line to tell a story about Libyans – why not promote the show in the same sprit?
To Falmouth I have a challenge. Do something positive. If Anastasia no longer feels she wants to attend then why not host a proper debate, with proper thinkers and photographers on the framing of war in photography. Invite David Campbell, Paul Lowe, Guy Martin, Jenny Matthews (who is already talking) and Stuart Freedman. Invite duckrabbit’s own David White (who teaches at Falmouth and who will see this post for the first time after it is published on the website) to chair the debate and prove that the purpose of a university is to challenge thinking and engage in rational debate – not to perpetuate dangerous and irresponsible myths about war photographers.
Enough from me. Here’s Christopher.