The blindness of photojournalism made crystal clear

EDITORS UPDATE: Please read Aranda’s response at the bottom of the post and my thoughts on it. It’s important to note that Aranda claims the family were happy with the use of the image, although in an interview he gave elsewhere he states they were not aware of the cover before it was licensed by him to the band for use on merchandise.


What is f*ed up about photojournalism? What is rotten in photojournalism?

Yesterday, I saw Crystal Castles’ t-shirt / album sleeve campaign and I reckon it pretty much sums the rot up:

crystal castles

I’m flabbergasted by this. I apologise in advance if I am not wonderfully coherent.

Can you imagine if you saw a picture of yourself cradling your child whilst he/she is in pain on a band’s t-shirt; on an album sleeve?

I’m trying to imagine it. I think I would find it deeply alienating and humiliating. I think I would wonder if the whole world were not in fact against me. Which indeed, it would be, because the powers that be (i.e. the Western world and its advocates: politicians, war-makers, business people and photographers and editors, and, apparently, musicians) are happy to use my suffering in order to make money. They would be especially happy about using my body and image to make money because I was foreign, darker skinned, without much money, without political enfranchisement and non-Western. If I were the woman, I would also know that people were especially happy to trample on my identity in order to sell stuff because I have a womb, and – call it a double strike – I am wearing a niqab.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what happens when consumerism drives and is driven by a Western-centric, patriarchal, ‘white-man-saviour’, racist set of ideologies. This is what our type of consumerism does to people’s bodies, stories, grief, identities, humanity: turns them into a pile of disposable sh*t in the name of cool.

The original image, of a Yemeni mother embracing her son as he suffers with the burning pain of tear gas, won World Press Photo of the year 2011. But you know, f that, because now it’s on a cool electro-band’s t-shirt and album sleeve. Ooh and it’s a limited edition!


You know what’s also limited, compassion apparently. I do not know for sure why Aranda agreed for his image to be so totally detached from context, slashed free of human framing, and pasted onto a t-shirt for hyped up cool kids, but I’m guessing it’s something to do with our good old friend, Money.

If you believe in photojournalism, if you want documentary to work, as a photojournalist, photographer, artist, storyteller you are the defenders of the ethics and necessity of your practice. If you sell-out your images in this way, debasing the stories you claim to tell, trading in the bodies of people you claim to be an ally to, you deserve your industry to flop on its bloated, Cyclops-eyed face. If you cannot see beyond the money, you have no business engaging people in image making in their private moments of suffering.

What the use of this image on a ‘cool’ t-shirt has done is turn these people into objects to be consumed by people who are far more privileged than they. The objectification and consumption of a person’s story, which essentially figures a dehumanisation of that person, has been used to support and reassert the identity of a privileged group of people. The consumed people are fighting for their identity by protesting against an oppressive regime. The privileged group of people pose their ‘identity’ by purchasing a band t-shirt.

The question has been raised: How is this any different from what the World Press Photo does with these images? My take on that: not different enough. However, one crucial difference is context. The WPP represents this image with context which locates the suffering of these people in a meaningful political and personal story. This raises awareness. This asks for witness, and witness asks for people to protest, to petition and to see the ‘other’ as an equal human. This is especially important when we consider the demonisation of Islam in the West and the very real way this leads to savage attacks on innocent people in Islamic countries, attacks which we do not protest, attacks which we quietly consent to in order to ‘protect’ ourselves. This t-shirt bears no witness, it is blind and axe wielding, severing image from story and denying political response or narrative.

But as I say: the difference is not enough. Who profits through the WPP? Who wins? How are the spoils of war shared? How are our professional and personal identities shored up again and again by capturing and viewing and trading in the suffering of others, whilst tangible, meaningful outcomes for those  depicted are left un-grasped?

What is this image now then? Nothing more than a colonial white man’s trophy – a grizzly head – held up victoriously upon returning to the empire’s soil, and kept, thereafter in a glass case. Looking at the case’s polished surface we see reflected back to us our own whole and safe Western selves; our own stories and identities validated by our own consumption. The shrivelled head remains in shadow, its history vague and distant, its suffering unknown. Our faces across the glass are all the more clearer for the dark background it supplies us. Our selves are all the more whole for the disintegration and digestion of those other, shadowy selves whose pain is nothing more than a motif.

Rock on photojournalists, rock on.

Samuel Arunda’s Response:

First of all, I don´t understand that you publish an article about me, without contacting me in advance to ask for my answer. Is not really ethical in journalism, in case that you are a journalist. The language that you used is pure sensationalism. The answer to this “polemic” that you are trying to create is easy, I still in contact with the woman and her son, and they were agree on this. Also it was a personal interest from the music group to put the focus on this persons that during the last two years are fighting for their rights. So, I don´t see the problem anywhere, everybody was agree, and this photo published in the front of the album will arrive to many youth that will know about Yemen and the suffering of the civilians in this country.


Hi Samuel, great image deservedly recognised. Thanks for your response.

In your response you state ‘ I still in contact with the woman and her son, and they were agree on this.’  In an interview published last November you were asked about how the family feel and you state ‘I think they’ll be alright with it, they’re really easy-going and open-minded people.’ So at the point where the artwork for the album had been decided and printed and according to the article the merchandise also designed the people in the photo had not been specifically told.  Sure they were very happy and proud of the photo though but might not have expected it to turn up in this context?

‘This photo published in the front of the album will arrive to many youth that will know about Yemen and the suffering of the civilians in this country.’

I think if you get beyond the ‘sensationalism’ of the post you’ll see that one of the problems that Madeleine has is the de-contextualisation of the image. That the ‘youth’ (and slightly less youth like me who loves the album) won’t know anything about the suffering in Yemen. How could they from the image?

Please note this is a comment piece on a blog about the sale of a photo to be used on an album and t-shirt that has been in the public domain since last September. I don’t agree with everything in the post but I do upheld the right for people to express an opinion on the blog about work in the public domain, even if those opinions upset some.


Discussion (105 Comments)

  1. Mark Esplin says:

    You raise some very interesting and valid points.

    However, I’m not sure about your conclusion that: “They would be especially happy about using my body and image to make money because I was foreign, darker skinned, without much money, without political enfranchisement and non-Western” .

    Yes they happen to be from Yemen, but you seem to suggest that images of western poverty are not exploited for commercial value, and also with ease. Arguably, it is less prominent, and yes Islamic culture is demonised by western media, like almost all non-western cultures, [think of representations of Africa, Asia etc] but I dont think it is only because they are muslim the image is used in such a manner, which I feel this article suggests.

    Also, drone attacks in pakistan are widely condoned and protested, as were the Iraq and Afganistan invasions. I think the greater issue is the systemic failure of ‘democratic’ process in the west and the division between the public and those in power; rather than a band printing 1000 offensive t-shirts.

    I do agree with you though that this is indeed very wrong, and more needs to be done in terms of how the west portrays other cultures.


  2. Thanks for writing this post and making the issue public/starting a discussion. I agree with much of what you write, so it raised some uncomfortable questions for me about the photo of Thich Quang Duc (sp?) on the Rage Against the Machine album cover. Is this doing the same thing, or something different, in your opinion and, if so, how/why? For me, it’s different because the intent of the subject was to draw attention to the situation in Vietnam. In that vein, though – if the photographer of this image had gained this subject’s consent – would that alter your position?

  3. Dean Douglas says:

    Interesting thoughts and analysis, but on the other hand have you ever considered that with a shrinking market for photojournalism (prices going down underground all the time) this type of “promotion” might be the only alternative for a photographer to fund his/her next project?
    Faces are not shown, and I very much doubt that the yemeni mother or son will ever see the t-shirt or the sleeve so not so much distress there either.
    In principal your article would make perfect sense in a perfect world (for photojournalists) but we do not live in a perfect world…
    thank you

  4. craig says:

    “I do not know for sure why Aranda agreed for his image to be so totally detached from context, slashed free of human framing, and pasted onto a t-shirt for hyped up cool kids, but I’m guessing it’s something to do with our good old friend, Money.”

    Have you asked him? And if so, what did he say?

  5. James Dodd says:

    To be honest I’ve had enough of this childish whistle blowing that’s going on in our community, especially when the whistles are being blown at journalism ethics and the blowers can’t even be bothered to get a response from the subjects they are so quick to tar and feather.

    I realise that much of this may be down to it being on the internet in a less than formal setting and maybe the rush to get this sort of exclusive out there, but come on, it’s all gone far enough. Lets do things right or not at all

    PS: I’m in no way defending or damning any of the subjects here, I’m merely stating that before I could even make an opinion on the matter I’d much rather have both sides to the story.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi James,

      ‘Lets do things right or not at all’

      With respect go down to your newsagent and buy a paper. Open it up and you’ll find a section called ‘comment’. It’s different from ‘reporting’, it’s where people write their opinions. Often about stuff that is in the public domain. Like this album cover which has been on sale since last September. People who write this stuff are called columnists. Or you could go online and have a look at the Guardian’s ‘Comment Is Free’ section. You could start a campaign to get them ‘to do it right’ but I think they’d argue audiences can tell the difference between opinion and reporting.

      Whistle blowing is something that is unknown being made public. This is an album cover of one of the most critically acclaimed albums of last year and a t-shirt being sold on the tour. Hardly an unknown thing being made public and in no way an exclusive.

      I don’t happen to agree entirely with what’s written here but I also value freedom of opinion and speech very highly. The internet is an ongoing conversation and I look forward to hearing what comment, if any, Samuel has.

    • bruno says:

      shoot first, ask questions later

      • James Dodd says:

        guessing you’ve heard of Jean Charles de Menezes.

        This isn’t a shoot first, ask questions later… this is a publish and be damned situation, and unfortunately questions should have been asked.

    • Lee says:


      Did Roger Ebert ever seek a response from any of the directors whose films he ripped to shreds?

      • James Dodd says:

        he would have at least watched the films first would he? or would he have just made a guess at the plot and the reasons the characters make the decisions they do?

        • Lee says:

          Actually that’s what critics do. But ‘guess’ might be a bit harsh. Critics critique based on expertise, prior experience, among other things. The great thing about the world we live in is everyone can be a critic. Whether your words hold any value is something else altogether.

  6. Samuel Aranda says:

    First of all, I don´t understand that you publish an article about me, without contacting me in advance to ask for my answer. Is not really ethical in journalism, in case that you are a journalist. The language that you used is pure sensationalism. The answer to this “polemic” that you are trying to create is easy, I still in contact with the woman and her son, and they were agree on this. Also it was a personal interest from the music group to put the focus on this persons that during the last two years are fighting for their rights. So, I don´t see the problem anywhere, everybody was agree, and this photo published in the front of the album will arrive to many youth that will know about Yemen and the suffering of the civilians in this country.

    • duckrabbit says:

      HI Samuel,

      Thanks for responding. I did email you to ask for a comment via your website.

      Personally I don’t agree with everything written here. This is a blog, its not a news report. It features comment and opinion.

      You write ‘I am still in contact with the woman and her son, and they agree on this’.

      However in this interview you make clear that they were not aware of the use of the picture on the album cover before it was distrubuted:

      So when should you seek permission. Before or after publication?

      • Samuel Aranda says:

        Is NOT true that you sent me an email for a comment before publishing the article. That´s what you wrote to me this morning:


        Hi Samuel,

        just wanted to alert you to this post on duckrabbit about the use of your WP wining image on the Crystal Castles album and t-shirt:

        Be more than happy to print a reponse.

        Duckrabbit has 40-50000 visitors a month.

        Best Wishes



        I hope you get more visitors creating polemics, is exactly what Tabloids do.
        And yes, they were aware of the use of the image before went to the market.

        Samuel Aranda.

        • duckrabbit says:

          Hi Samuel,

          Please re-read what I wrote. I didn’t state that I contacted you before the post was published. That wouldn’t have been possible because I don’t read the posts before publication. The blog is self-edited by the writers.

          If the family knew about the use of the picture before publication why did you say otherwise in an interview?

          ‘How do you think Fatima and Said, the two on the photo, will take all this?

          I think they’ll be alright with it, they’re really easy-going and open-minded people. ‘

          • Samuel Aranda says:

            I said that I don´t know how they will take this, but they were agree on it.
            You are a demagogue

            Samuel Aranda

          • duckrabbit says:

            Hi Samuel,

            if you state that you don’t know how they will take this then they didn’t know right? That’s all the point I am making, which seems to contradict your initial response. Maybe its a language issue but its difficult to agree to something you are not aware of. I guess what you mean is that they agreed in principle for the photo to be used in anyway that you thought was right?

  7. Helen Rimell says:

    Dean, frankly if exploiting the subjects a person is working with is the only way they can fund a next project, then they shouldn’t be doing a next project. There are plenty of ways to fund your work that don’t involve selling out the very people you allege to be helping.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Thanks for the link Marcia. Cracking album.

      In the interview Aranda makes it clear that he did not consult with the family, but felt they would be OK with the use of the picture.

      ‘How do you think Fatima and Said, the two on the photo, will take all this?

      ‘I think they’ll be alright with it, they’re really easy-going and open-minded people. From the start, when I won the World Press Photo and I was a bit confused when I got all that money and everything, they made it clear to me that they were proud to be on that photo, and that they didn’t expect anything in return, as they had already become a symbol for the Yemen revolution. I’m still in touch with them a lot.’

  8. James Dodd says:

    Sorry, didn’t realise that everyone knew about this and you weren’t trying to bring it to our attention. pointless pedantics out of the way…

    Duckrabbit isn’t a newspaper: “Duckrabbit is an award-winning digital production company. We work with documentary audio, still photography and video to make compelling film and audio narratives for commercial, charity and broadcast clients…” etc..

    essentially a private organisation exploiting news like this to further the public perception of yourself. people will get involved in the comments, you’ll get promoted through the discussion, good or bad and you’ll lead some talks and workshops at various places because of the reputation trying to protect photojournalism… doesn’t matter if there’s some friendly fire every now and again tho, it’s all good for the cause.

    Anyway, regardless of comment, you’d be wise to avoid libelous remarks, and potential general inaccuracies, which could be avoided by speaking to the subjects, why you’re defending the fact you’ve failed to speak to the subjects is beyond me?

    And before you come back with some retort, you’ve basically said Aranda is “trading in the bodies of people you claim to be an ally to”

    PS: if you don’t agree with what’s written here, don’t put your name to it like you are with it being attached to your platform and organisation.

    • duckrabbit says:

      I’m sorry you can’t grasp the difference between comment and reporting.

      It’s also a shame that you can’t engage the right person. I didn’t write this post, I published it.

      If you’re not able to get your head round the fact different people can have different opinions but write on the same blog there’s not much I can do about that.

      • James Dodd says:

        “can’t grasp”, “can’t engage”. seriously what’s your issue with me?

        Obviously different people can have different opinions. Do you not think I know that, why are you treating me like the stupidest person in the world for merely questioning the frequence of these sort of articles on this site which mostly fail to collect the facts and both sides of the story.

        Can we stop with all the childish nonsense and not attack my opinion? I mean you’re defending someone else’s you basically disagree with, so why not mine?

        And sure you didn’t write it. But you published it. You’re basically the editor and you’re liable. More than this, you own the web space the words and picture exists on, you’re legally responsible for the content on it.
        You need to realise that Duckrabbit is the platform which is essentially endorsing the opinions of the people in the articles. If you vastly disagreed with them you’d not let them publish. it’s that simple.

        going back to fact checking and basing opinions on things other than here-say, considering there is an interview with the photographer on the internet as mentioned by Marcia. What’s wrong with quoting it, where’s any mention of the album aligning with the photographers views? That he didn’t agree to it merely because of money which this article implies?

        • duckrabbit says:

          I’m not defending the post because you haven’t actually said anything specific about it! Just some daft generalizations like I shouldn’t publish something I don’t agree with. That would be fine if you believe in dictatorships but I’m very comfortable no-one writing on the blog has such a narrow attitude.

          • James Dodd says:

            again with childish remarks. My daft or silly remarks are obviously questioning the publishing of this post without seeking out facts or response from the subjects before publication.

            you defended it by defending freedom of speech and saying it was an opinion, one you didn’t agree with, well I’m sorry, but why you’re continuing to argue with me is beyond reason when you should be putting that energy into avoiding duck rabbits name being tarred with continuing to make accusations about photographers without contacting them to find out their opinions (don’t pretend this is an isolated incident, we all know it isn’t).

    • duckrabbit says:

      ‘why you’re defending the fact you’ve failed to speak to the subjects is beyond me’

      That it’s beyond you James is something we can agree on.

      (we’re going round in circles so I’ll just refer you back to my first reply)

  9. Richard says:

    Sounds like a lot of emotion and much in the way of facts. If this is an opinion piece, it’s a not very informed opinion, littered with accusations and nothing to back them up.

  10. James Dodd says:

    PPS: freedom of speech is fine. I just won’t speak the words of others who I disagree with, nor will I let them put their opinions on my website. That is not denying free speech.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Its a blog. With different writers who have different opinons about different stuff. You can’t have debate without that. Sorry you have a problem with that. Even Murdoch allows for different of opinion in his publication.

      • James Dodd says:

        you’re not murdoch. but sure, he’ll allow whatever to happen as long as he’s going to profit from it. and you’re certainly doing that with views.

        • duckrabbit says:

          James you’re just being silly if you think that a post like this helps us sell doucmentaries to the BBC. Its a really self-defeating argument.

          • James Dodd says:

            if you don’t see how blog posts work for raising the “brand” of the companies and expanding their audience, then I’d reconsider how you work with the internet.

        • duckrabbit says:

          James with respect you contradict yourself. You’re all for free speech and debate but you only think I should publish stuff I agree with? I’m not a dictator and its bit surreal you want me to be one!

          You also warn me about ‘tarring our reputation’ but then go to say ‘if you don’t see how blog posts work for raising the “brand” of the companies and expanding their audience, then I’d reconsider how you work with the internet.’

          So according to you duckrabbit’s reputation is being ‘tarred’ whilst at the same raising our brand? I think I’ll take a pass on your PR workshop.

          I can see we think differently about things. I’m happy to provide a space for Mad to comment on things she feels passionately about and then happy to provide a space for you to have a go at her.

  11. Anna Maria Nielsen says:

    There is absolutely nothing right about this. Its shocking. I honestly don’t see how anyone above can argue against the ethical no no on the subject. A “shrinking market” IS NO reason to put a an image like this on a t-shirt or a cd for a band? What is wrong with people.

  12. R says:

    I take issue with the way the author has sidelined this issue about uses of imagery to highlight her own political agenda. e.g.”demonisation of Islam in the West” “colonial white man’s trophy” Yemen is not a colony, and judging from the number of active mosques and publicly practicing muslims in Britain it is not fair or correct to say that Islam is demonised in the west.Muslims can and do hold political office in Britain which is more than can be said of Christians in Yemen. Also lots of people do protest drone usage.

    and seriously “Western-centric, patriarchal, ‘white-man-saviour’, racist set of ideologies.” this sort of outdated rhetoric has no meaning in regard to this image being used on this t-shirt.

  13. Foal says:

    Its a pretty cool t-shirt to be fair.

  14. Marcia says:

    Not sure I agree its the “blindness of photojournalism”–most photojournalists would probably say this is wrong–but certainly there are major nonethical standards being set in photojournalism, disappointingly by elite award winners…

    Aranda already was interviewed about his thoughts on this by the way: He says he thinks they would be alright with it and “they didn’t expect anything in return [from his World Press win], as they had already become a symbol for the Yemen revolution” ( Really, they would expect nothing?

    In any case, even if Fatima and Said say its fine and he’s covered his bases there (and assuming there were no other factors that involve them saying ok–such as cultural norms, power dynamics, pressure, politeness, lack of understanding of commercial vs editorial, etc…), as a photoJOURNALIST, he has a responsibility to the subjects, the image and the issue to ensure it does not stray from the context. He took a powerful picture and shared it to say something meaningful, and won an award that already put the issue in front of everyone, why would he lessen its impact and the significance of his work by allowing a music group to use it to sell their album? Regardless of CC’s politics, no one can say that this commercial use is doing anything in terms of educating the public.

    Yes, surviving in photojournalism is difficult, finding creative ways to fund your projects is a must now, it would be hard to say no to anyone that offers you good ££ for one image… But just because the opportunity exists, doesn’t always mean its excusable. Why become a photojournalist today at all if you’re not up for the struggle to maintain your ethics?

  15. Adam Steiner says:

    Firstly, I want to say that the photo itself, and the application of it in this context, are both aesthetically brilliant.

    Here’s why: the album itself , III, is very dark and the vocalist Alice Glass said that events around the world and personal issues had massively altered the mood of III. Like all good album artwork, the cover reflects this, suggesting a sense of pain, isolation and suffering – it’s not a question of equivalency, Crystal Castles are a hedonistic Canadian electro-duo and I don’t think they’d claim that their lives are in any way similar to people protesting in foreign countries where there may or may not be despotic regimes. It’s a question of surface and feeling combined. Picasso made Guernica while he was living it up in occupied France during World War II, and yet his painting captures in cool detached greys (a comfortable remove) the chaos, panic and devastation of a small Spanish town being firebombed, I don’t see that as exploitation, I see it as representation from the artist’s perspective.

    Now onto the ethics. I agree that the use of the picture might seem…opportunistic, as if to earn CC moral weight or edgy, controversial kudos. But most reviews of the album referred only to the picture as an apt image of the album’s content. In fact, I think that as much as the album cover can seem voyeuristic, simply because it is viewed out of context, I think journalistic photography is just voyeuristic.

    Displayed in galleries, or simply to accentuate an article, to be representative of the words in another medium, is to give some insight into events but gives no impetus for action, no direct influx of charity, solidarity or direct support, it’s simply a moment captured in time. Another comment mentioned RATM’s first album of a Buddhist monk who self-immolated in protest at the Vietnam war, surely a very political band used such a striking, aesthetically powerful image because it looked good and it represented their message of resistance against tyranny?

    I think a great example of the voyeurism of photographic journalism is Kevin Carter. He won the Pullitzer prize for photographing starving children in Africa, his most striking image is of an emaciated child being watched over by a vulture, waiting for it to die. Carter later committed suicide over the guilt he felt at capturing the situation and then walking away. Ok, this is not strictly relevant to most journos as the need for objectivity and good reporting requires a certain degree of distance, but it got to Carter even though it seems to be the nature of the business and the use of powerful imagery to make a point in different contexts and mediums.

    Regardless, this is a great article and I think it’s good you’ve raised the debate as not much was said when the album was first released.

    • duckrabbit says:

      Great points Adam. Thank you.

      On Carter I think it was a bit more complex then he killed himself because of the reaction to the image, though it clearly played a part.

    • Michael says:

      Carter was in an aid camp, that kid was being well looked after. THe vulture just happened to be around and he waited till it turned to the kid and framed it that way. Th child was never in any danger from the vulture or of starving.

  16. Dan says:

    Some interesting points have been made. In the interview posted above, Samuel Aranda explains he initially rejected the idea. He goes on to say:

    ” Q – Is it a problem for you that your image is now part of the band’s merchandising, and becomes some kind of a new aesthetic reference in pop culture?

    A – Not at all, I’m proud they chose my photo, knowing what their ideals are, and that we’re on the same level politically and otherwise. What worried me was that they were going to exploit the photo commercially. But as said, as soon as we talked about it personally, I noticed we think alike, and it was easy to come to an agreement.”

    So is this a photographer selling out to a faceless, meaningless music industry? Or is it a collaberation between artists who share the same political beliefs?

    • Michael says:

      What’s more, after reading his responses on this site, English s def not his first language. They obviously edited his remarks because he isn’t that clear in English. I’m curious what he really said, they shouldn’t have used quotes.

      • duckrabbit says:

        ‘They obviously edited his remarks because he isn’t that clear in English. ‘

        Nope. The quote is unedited.

        Did you really say you shouldn’t use quotes to quote someone? That’s a first.

  17. Alright, so we all agree that this is a blog and not journalism per se and therefore not bound by the same strictures. All the same, I have reservations about several issues raised, both in and by the article.

    Madeleine Corocoran, whose posts on this blog I have previously enjoyed reading, has made a critical error by not doing any research whatsoever. If you were to google Crystal Castles + Photo + Aranda, the VERY FIRST link you would get is an explanation of how this collaboration came about and some salient facts which should have at least informed her opinion even if it didn’t change it. As Madeleine herself points out, context is important.

    Even a cursory look at the lyric sheet for Crystal Castles would have given pause for thought. Far from being a “cool electro-band” they are a pair of politically engaged musicians who are attempting to address the injustices they perceive in the world through their music. That their genre of music happens to be critically acclaimed at the moment is hardly their fault. They are not using this image to sell glib three minute pop songs about boy-meets-girl to a legion of teenagers. The fact that it is a limited edition reflects the inherent ambiguity of walking the line between harnessing the power of an image in order to move people and the potential to exploit it. I think it shows a certain sensitivity rather than crass commercialism.

    HOWEVER… these facts aside, I think that the central tenet of the argument against the use of photojournalism outside of it’s context are worth debating. Do we take the view that even subliminally raising awareness of important issues is a good thing or would it be more appropriate to ring-fence these types of photograph in order that they are only ever seen in their original and respectful setting.

    I do not believe that this image in any way contributes to the demonisation of Islam, even if used on a t-shirt or an album cover. It is my belief that the suffusion of photojournalistic imagery into popular culture is an important part of the process by which its influence is brought to bear within society.

    Readers do not always choose to engage with the distressing news of other people’s conflicts (statistically, fewer than 5% of internet users read articles about foreign cultures unless they are on the landing page of a site) and if photography is to continue this important function of democracy, then new, carefully considered uses need to be embraced.

    Many artists, musicians, dancers and creative people have sought to harness the power of human empathy in their work through the portrayal of suffering. While it may be uncomfortable to admit that part of this means making money from that suffering, it is simple-minded to assume that is the primary purpose.

    Madeleine has provoked thought and debate with this piece but the example she has chosen to illustrate her viewpoint is so fundamentally inaccurate that it completely undermines her argument.

  18. Thank you for the conversation around this piece. I realise my comments were strong. This is because I felt strongly about the issue. I’m interested to see these reactions. Even with further information, I feel my initial visceral reaction still makes sense.

    There’s so much being said here, but let me just pick out one point that I think will be useful. Justin, you say: “While it may be uncomfortable to admit that part of this means making money from that suffering, it is simple-minded to assume that is the primary purpose.” I agree with you. I do not think money making was the primary purpose of this photographer. I think it plays a part in the decision to sell the image to Crystal Castles. I don’t think it played a key part in the initial creation of the image, from what I can see. That money making was the ‘primary purpose’ is irrelevant because what I am arguing is that money-making is the fundament to these operations of production and consumption. If we do not take a good long look at how these fundamental systems are operating, we are all workers within its damaging scheme. The interview “Crystal Castles: All About Their New Album Sleeve” is useful in getting the photographers perspective upon the use of the image. I think my criticism of the modes of consumption still stand.

    I was not attempting to make a demonization of one photographer, but rather to challenge the current system of production and consumption.

    I cannot hope to comment upon the photographer’s personal interaction with these people, nor do I wish to. I am commenting upon the symbols at work. My argument comes from the perspective that symbols matter in real, physical ways.

    I question the systems of consumption which encourage us to consume suffering of people who hold less power than us, arguably encourage us to capture suffering in order to consume that suffering, and, on a systematic and Global scale, arguably cause us to produce suffering in order to capture and consume that suffering in the cause of asserting and protecting our own identities. This is to do with the interaction of art, politics, histories, not just something I wish to pin on photographers or any one photographer. However, photojournalists have a responsibility as much as any other producer/spokesperson.

    What I don’t understand is this double-speak which separates photographers and subjects as different kinds of human being with different needs. That to me is the underpinning blindness here. On the one hand, photojournalists adhere to a set of ethics and aspirations that are above money. They go out to capture these photos often at their own expense, often with rewards which do not reflect the time and effort expended, because they care about the issue and want it to be witnessed. On the other hand, they need money to survive and to continue their practice, so they make deals in order to sell their images, and these deals may take the images well out of context and beyond message. This is justified on the basis of necessity, survival and further supported by the context of an honest, conversational relationship with the subjects.

    What I want to ask is, if the first world photographer has to admit that he/she too is only human and cannot operate only on thin air and ethical calling, why can we not afford to extend that same faulty vision of humanity to his/her subjects? They too need to make money as well as making human statements. In fact, even more so, living as they do in a context with fewer resources, fewer opportunities and greater instability. It is colonial thinking to demonize the other. It is also colonial thinking to put the other on a pedestal which makes them the angels and guardians of your good intentions and human visions, whilst you get to admit that sometimes you need to make difficult choices about your messages in order to get on in life.

    If we are going to operate within and accept the current modes of profit and consumption rather than challenge them, then what would solve this for me is that Fátima and Said should profit from this use of their image, just as any Western photographer would expect to, just as the musicians expect to. These subjects also made the image what it is, they also need money. If one is not willing to challenge the sickness of a system which posits the Westerner as a powerful consumer who consumes images of non-Western suffering, then one should at least extend the rights of that system to the less privileged. I would like to challenge the fundamental structure; however, if one is not willing to do that, then it is at least not right to make the less-privileged the guardians of humanity. How can we argue that first world photographers should get paid for their human statements, whilst those on the other side of the lens and the border should have the grace to give their human statements away for free?

    This comes under even greater scrutiny when images are being used in ways that are unlikely to really contain or convey the initial human story. The idea that a model release goes far enough in challenging these inequalities is inadequate to me. Do the subjects know in detail where their image will be used? Do they know how it will look, who will purchase it and why? Is it enough to say that because it is another group of creators who want to use the image that this gives its re-use integrity? The idea that an article, or any number of articles, goes far enough in keeping the human message with this complex image – an image which I thought was a moving and well justified winner of WPP, and which carries certain responsibility because of it – is also inadequate given the massive and complicated dissemination of the image once the band takes it on as part of their own brand.I am thinking of, for example, their visual manipulation of the image on the bands tumblr ( where it is featured without captions, in various different colours and formats, and amongst photos of performances and portraits of the band members.

    Photographers will talk about the ways in which paying their subjects clouds the integrity of the image making act and compromises the choices of people who are poorer than themselves. Why do they expect integrity to be housed by their subjects – for their subjects to operate outside of the system of buy and sell – if they themselves cannot envision operating outside of that system? We are all humans: no one of us is naturally more graceful than another of us. No one of us is naturally less in need of resources and livelihood than another of us. These are the circumstances we find ourselves in, dependent upon where and when we are born, and these are the choices we make.

    I feel this is far broader than any one interaction, any one permission/model release or any one moment in the lives of any one photographer or photographic subject. If photojournalism cannot admit its means of profit, I find it hard to admit its claims to integrity. These are hard things to say when one struggles to make a living out of doing something good, but they are all the more essential because of that. This is a question to be asked throughout the creative world and I’d like to point to ‘Liberate Tate’ as a group who make the case clearly that if the means of profit are not scrutinised, then the statements made by creative practice are hollowed out: . Where is the equivalent challenge for photojournalism, on an intimate and broad level?

    • Madeleine,

      Thank you for taking the time to expand on your original post with this comment. As ever, I enjoy reading your eloquent work but I cannot find very much in your argument that persuades me of your point of view.

      If you start a piece with the phrase, “What is f*ed up about photojournalism? What is rotten in photojournalism?” then I believe you have to back that strong statement with intellectual rigour.

      Now, were you to put those two questions to me, as a photojournalist of more than twenty years experience, I would have a list as long as your arm, but it would not include the single example you then gave.

      Photojournalism is not a wholly ethical endeavour and anyone who believes it can be prosecuted without certain moral ambiguities is tragically deluded. Furthermore, photojournalism is not one thing any more than written journalism could be considered a single entity.

      To attempt to illustrate a complex, multi-faceted discipline in one single example is both statistically invalid and intellectually worthless. That was compounded by the use of an example which did not bear close scrutiny.

      What had initially appeared as thoughtless commercialism looked very different after a few short minutes of reading about both the photographer and the musicians involved. This does not necessarily mean that I feel completely comfortable about the way this image has been used by Crystal Castles but my unease falls a very long way short of your sensationalist reaction.

      Far from making the argument about modes of consumption, you engaged in a very personal and highly inaccurate portrayal of a photographer’s motivations and those of the musicians involved. Let us just re-cap here in case I am dreaming but you did say,

      “You know what’s also limited, compassion apparently. I do not know for sure why Aranda agreed for his image to be so totally detached from context, slashed free of human framing, and pasted onto a t-shirt for hyped up cool kids, but I’m guessing it’s something to do with our good old friend, Money.”

      Of course the reason you did “not know for sure” was that you had not invested even the tiniest amount of time in attempting to find out. You just embarked on a series of poorly informed guesses and presented them without thought to the consequences and completely oblivious to ongoing dialogue between photographer and subject.

      I want to enjoy reading your pieces, as I have done previously on duckrabbit. But in order for me to continue enjoying them, I need to believe that they are the product of well informed opinions rather than knee-jerk reactions and hyper emotional conjecture. Otherwise, what’s the point in your readers investing the time to read and think about the issues you want to communicate?

      Please, come clean and admit that the sight of this album cover and t-shirt, albeit seven months after their appearance, just made you so irrationally angry that you momentarily suspended all judgement and just posted something that felt good rather than right.

      If you can manage this mea culpa and the humility it takes to admit one’s mistakes, you will make me very pleased. Not because of any point that might have been proved but because I want to return to respecting your writing.

      • duckrabbit says:

        Hi Justin,

        You make some good points, but you’re asking, in a very nice way, the author to acknowledge the post was written on the fly.

        Can I refer you to Madeleines’ THIRD LINE

        ‘I apologise in advance if I am not wonderfully coherent.’

        Maybe it escaped your attention?

        • I did indeed see her caveat, but while I think Madeleine’s piece WAS very coherent, I believe she was wrong to make this particular point about this picture.The more I read the original post and her reply t the comments, the more I feel she has done herself a disservice through implying things that are just not true.

          Maybe it is ESPECIALLY because of her coherence and strength of the sentiment, that I would like her to admit she might have got it wrong.

          Its not a demand, I shan’t threaten to stop reading or any such peevish histrionics. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that Madeleine often writes things with which I strongly disagree – I want to be challenged. But I need to respect the intellectual integrity and rigour of the challenger. Otherwise really, what’s the point?

  19. Justin Leighton says:

    Interesting use of demagogue … never seen DR as a populist leader or taking on a populist view point as we can see here.
    That’s an aside.

    I don’t agree with Madeleine Corocoran on this one. If the photographer has an on going conversation with the family and an understanding then that is more than has happened in the past. Maybe the context of the image should have been express more to the audience that consume the image. Look at the Dead Kennedys Holidays in Cambodia. I don’t think that anyone in that photograph was asked is named or given any form of permission. Was that picture even taken in Cambodia ? It wasn’t it is from 1976 Bangkok the 6th Oct massacre of 46 students by right wing paramilitaries. Not the same time place or country.
    Politics/Music and Photojournalism have always been strange bed fellows. That argument/debate is on going. One thing about this opinions article/blog/comment is that it has sparked a discussion. Where that happens is that really where the argument should be heading.
    Disagreeing with a few point shouldn’t make people feel that they shouldn’t express it for right/wrong. I hope that DR is just a cynical manipulator of all of us and that we could see it if they were.

    leave you with these:

    “Everybody knows this photo, taken by Nick Ut: Then 9 year old Phan Th? Kim Phúc, running away from a (South Vietnamese) napalm attack on the town of Tr?ng Bàng, northwest of Saigon, on June 8, 1972. Kim Phúc survived with severe burns, was used by the Vietnamese government for propaganda purposes after 1975 and later defected to Canada, where she lives to this day. She is married and has two children.”

    two uses here that are interesting:

    1. Eric Geurts wrote a song called “The Girl in the Picture” dedicated to Kim Phuc
    2. Napalm Death The Curse


    Dead Kennedys Rage Against the Machine etc

  20. Justin Leighton says:

    sorry typo is instead of isn’t

    I hope that DR isn’t just a cynical manipulator of all of us and that we could see it if they were.

  21. Lindsay Mackenzie says:

    I agree with all of what Justin Sutcliffe said above – well put. The lack of very basic research (to do a web search, or speak to Aranda, the band, or indeed Fatima and Said themselves) undermines the point you were trying to make. What was the point, anyway? You lost me with all the bloated Cyclops and grizzly, shrivelled heads…

    What I would add to what Justin said is that Madeleine – I think you are falling victim to some of the things that you yourself are trying to criticize.

    Maybe Fatima and Said don’t need YOU to save them, either. Maybe your knee-jerk reaction in speaking for them and assuming that they would not want the image used in that way is some of your own colonial, white-(wo)man saviour complex.

    Said was injured in a protest. Protesters go out onto the streets because they want their anger and grievances to be seen out in public. They know photographers will be there – they (the protesters) use us (the photographers) to get their story out – just as much as we ‘use’ them as subjects. So while the image is intimate, and Said is in pain, who are you to say that they don’t want that pain to be seen? It helps further their cause. If you were out protesting against something you believed so deeply in that you were willing to risk grave injury, or worse, and a band in another country decided that they were inspired by your bravery and strength and used it for their album cover, as part of their own battle, would you be upset? I don’t know about you. Personally, I’d be proud.

    The way that you see the image – only as a symbol of suffering, and not as a symbol of strength – is perhaps partly a reflection of your own – as you put it – “Western-centric, patriarchal, ‘white-man-saviour’, racist set of ideologies…”

    Maybe the best thing to do would be to speak to Fatima and Said rather than all of us speaking for them and assuming how they feel.

    But then again, maybe it’s easier just to write an angry post and not do the work to contact them (or Aranda, or the band, or even someone who bought a t-shirt). Or maybe you just assumed that – as you put it – “foreign, darker skinned, without much money, without political enfranchisement and non-Western” Yemenies don’t have phones or internet access?

    • Jamie Smith says:

      I too agree with Justin that the argument Madeleine makes is not sustained by the example she chooses and also that, in the case of CC using Aranda’s image, one should probably be charitable and assume the subjects of his photo were happy with its use beyond WPP. However I think you have misrepresented the rest of what she was saying and have employed a perverse argument to criticise her. Protesters around the world may use western media to further their political ambitions but that doesn’t mean their images and stories can’t be exploited by us. Madeleine makes no claim on what Fatima and Said feel, she is discussing the motivations and implications of how we (the West) represent them. To criticise someone as neocolonial for calling other members of their culture to account for possibly neocolonial behaviour seems bizarre. This would be like saying you shouldn’t censure those expressing prejudice without first consulting the victim. Anyway maybe we should all stop writing posts late at night. There is always a temptation to say too much.

      • duckrabbit says:

        Thanks Jamie

        ‘Anyway maybe we should all stop writing posts late at night. There is always a temptation to say too much.’

        Say too much, or say what many people must have been thinking?

  22. J.J. says:

    Perhaps this is worthy of discussion as well:

    In the “Haiti Est Mort” gallery (a title my Haitian friends would certainly disagree
    with) it is possible to purchase LIMITED EDITION PRINTS OF DEAD HAITIANS BEING DUMPED INTO MASS GRAVES!! 2 SIZES, 5 AND 10 EDITIONS IN EACH SERIES!!! And if that doesn’t strike your fancy, there are plenty of other nicely composed images of corpses and victims of violence/tragedy to choose from sprinkled throughout the rest of this gallery, as well as the others.

    In the “Fragile Border” series, which is ostensibly about life along the Kenya/Somali border according to the O’born Director, the images blend seamlessly from that topic, to the war in the Congo-while the captions remain the same: “Untitled, from Fragile Border.” I guess it’s just one big shit storm over there in Africa, but who am I to criticize, this is art after all.

    Maybe now is a good time to get in on the work of this rising star, before he becomes a full fledged member of Magnum and wins more awards, before his Brand becomes pricier- buy low sell high! Could be a sound investment…

    I am sure Mr. Nahr is a nice guy and everything, but this pretty much is the literal definition of the phrase “the commodification of suffering.” Limited edition prints of mass graves, WTF.

  23. ” it was a personal interest from the music group to put the focus on this persons that during the last two years are fighting for their rights. So, I don´t see the problem anywhere, everybody was agree, and this photo published in the front of the album will arrive to many youth that will know about Yemen and the suffering of the civilians in this country. ” – Samuel Aranda, Photojournalist.

    When one look at the screen capture taken from a Facebook page that we see in the blog post, there is ABSOLUTELY NO explanation or comment on the human right issue or the context of that photo. When we go on the band’s official page, where can we see their social ideals and political level ?

    If Aranda and the band wanted to raise awareness to the situation, they don’t make it obvious for the average public. How many of the band’s fans can explain what is the context of that picture ? Will they search the political point of view of the band when they see the cover or the T-shirts? I have my doubt as this picture was largely published and still few people can tell me what is the context behind it.

    It looks more like a making up of motivation afterward … like explaining the concept of the project to the people in the picture AFTER its usage and diffusion by the band.

  24. Michael says:

    I’m tired of tabloid opinion journalism. No one gives a f*** about uneducated opinions except those equally uneducated. The fact that you allow this unverified, un-researched garbage on your site makes it all the easier to delete duckrabbit from my RSS feed and browser history.

  25. John Kantor says:

    All Journalists are parasites living off the pain and suffering of others. If you want to change the world, choose sides and pick up a gun.

    • John, Please tell me that you are joking with this comment.

      Only a small percentage of journalists are parasites and fewer still live off “the pain and suffering of others”. They mostly live off stimulating the public interest in the lives of boring and irrelevant non-contributors to society (celebrities).

      As for your other suggestion, history suggests that changing the world by “choosing sides and picking up a gun” has, with very few exceptions, only made matters worse.

  26. Gresham says:

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what happens when consumerism drives and is driven by a Western-centric, patriarchal, ‘white-man-saviour’, racist set of ideologies. This is what our type of consumerism does to people’s bodies, stories, grief, identities, humanity: turns them into a pile of disposable sh*t in the name of cool.”

    Not too hard to understand your inherent bias. Criticism is more effective when it at least begins from an unbiased position. Come on – there aren’t non-western capitalist consumers? Been to Africa or Asia lately?

    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi Gresham,

      Thanks for your comment.

      In what way is there such a thing as ‘unbiased’ criticism? To me that’s a bit like objective or impartial journalism. A dangerous idea.

      • the meaning doesn't matter it's only idle chatter says:

        Dangerous in what way? *listens to the hot air whoosh past*

        • duckrabbit says:

          Dangerous in that audiences take something to be objective, like TIME magazine’s reporting on Afghanistan, when it is anything but. Not sure how manipulation of audience under the banner of objective journalism is just hot air, but you’re entitled to that opinion.

  27. the meaning doesn't matter it's only idle chatter says:

    I was about to write a bit about art, the interplay of signs and signifiers, appropriation, and what I consider (reasonably) to be right and wrong with the use of this image for an album cover. Taking into regard opposing but justifiable views no less. But after re-reading the article a few times, it makes so little sense and is so unreasonable, that there’s no point in me wasting my effort trying to respond reasonably.

    The author seems by my estimation, ignorant, arrogant, amusingly ostentatious, and more interested in saying something, perhaps anything to get attention – than actually having to explain or back up their opinion. Trying too hard to look smart, but with no substance to back it up. This kind of writing is supremely annoying and growing like some sort of insidious cancer on the internet lately. “I know there’s something wrong here, but I’m not sure what so I’ll just rattle off some buzzwords and act like whatever this problem is it’s the single most important problem in the history of the world”.

    In any event they could have at the very least googled the word “art” before making a slightly disgusting grab for attention. At least it was kind of amusing. I wonder if the irony of it all will ever strike them.

    • duckrabbit says:

      I find it really pathetic that you hide behind anonymity to make personal attacks, what is that? Clearly lacking the authors courage.

      • the meaning doesn't matter it's only idle chatter says:

        Nice red herring. ;D At least I admitted I wasn’t going to bother attempting a reasonable reply, but just give my opinion. In any event, “Author’s courage” (whatever that is) certainly wouldn’t make my comments any better or worse, I think it’s fair to say.

        • duckrabbit says:

          Actually I think your integrity is dependent on it. In attacking the author personally from a position of anonymity, in this exchange at least, you appear to have none.

  28. Paul says:

    You can buy a limited edition print of this image for 600 euro, directly from Aranda’s website, by pushing ‘Add to cart’.

  29. Connor Crooks says:

    “I do not know for sure why Aranda agreed for his image to be so totally detached from context, slashed free of human framing, and pasted onto a t-shirt for hyped up cool kids”

    Did you know the albums lyrics are politically minded, covering amongst over topics genocide, ethnic cleansing, oppression, violence against women. Also the band have frequently talked about this in interviews. That’s the context, and the bands fans do understand it.

    You just couldn’t be bothered to research this even a little bit did you.

    You should be celebrating that a cool band has made it cool to care about these things. Not criticising them, this is what puts young people off politics.

    As a youngish fan of the band I feel you’re being sensationally patronising and suggest you talk off your blinkers and take into account the context before you declare there is none.

    • duckrabbit says:

      HI Connor,

      in my case I am a fan of the band and I love this album. But in what sense by listening to the words on this album (if you can even make them out!) going to interest young people in politics, let alone what’s going on in Yemen? How by listening to their music do they make it ‘cool to care about these things’? Which song made you change your mind about something?

      “Wrath Of God”

      Christen them with paraffin
      Sterilize samaritans
      Contravene loyal ties
      Migrate them
      through the pesticide

      They’ll strip you of your heritage
      They’ll strip you of your heritage

      Christen them with paraffin
      Sterilize samaritans
      Contravene loyal ties
      Migrate them
      through the pesticide

      They’ll strip you of your heritage
      They’ll strip you of your heritage

  30. Dave G. says:

    Here’s something to consider:

    If the commercialization of this image, with permission from the subjects, means that the author has the means to create even more meaningful humanistic photography, the world benefits. The reality is, photojournalism does not pay and can be a very difficult career to sustain prior to a success like this.

    But resources earned from commercialization is how most photographers support themselves and keep doing important social documentary work. In the end, we all have to find a way to stay in business while we do the work we love.

  31. Jameson kergozou says:

    “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”

    I agree with a lot of people here in that you should have asked for a response from Samuel Arunda. It is the same as being tried at court without being there to defend yourself.

    The whole article came across as a rant, it felt highly uneducated and just an attack on the particular photographer and the band.

    There was no mention of other bands that have used images of suffering such as rage against the machine? Its not like crystal castles were the first to do it and they probably wont be the last. Was your disgust due to the ‘cool’ factor that was mentioned more than once. As if that you were only offended because the band is an alternative one.

    What about photographers who exhibit photographs of suffering and sell prints like Simon Norfolk or Don McCullin? Sure you might say the photograph is still in its context. but is it really? Is a photograph of suffering still a photograph of suffering when ts hung in the hallway of someone who was able to afford the several thousand pounds for it in the first place?

    • “Is a photograph of suffering still a photograph of suffering when ts hung in the hallway of someone who was able to afford the several thousand pounds for it in the first place?”

      No, I think it would be fair to say it’s an investment.

  32. Rob says:

    What’s the difference between the image being on a T shirt and the photographer selling prints for $2000 (limited edition)?

    Time will tell whether the image achieves (or deserves) true iconic status – the surgical gloves raise questions in addition to being a distraction.

    • Genuinely curious about the “questions” which the rubber gloves raise for you, in “addition to being a distraction”. A distraction from what?

      Could you elaborate perhaps?

      • Rob says:

        We do not all look at images, or anything else for that matter, through the same eyes; each of us views through a veil of accumulated experience, attitudes etc.

        Surgical gloves have a very specific purpose and are usually only worn by health professionals to protect against infection; they are not a cosmetic accessory (except in certain circumstances). Some might say they are the ‘punctum’ of this image; in this case they add a disruptive and contradictory element.

        • Thanks Rob. Still not sure whether your reference to them “raising questions” was specific to some doubt you had about the provenance of the scene. I agree they are a discordant element. I can recall reading a more in-depth piece when the image won, which explained a little about the circumstances and the reason why the woman was wearing the gloves, in a makeshift hospital. Whatever, they added a interesting element for me in that their ‘isolation’ (as you also note) removes the skin-to-skin contact that would have been so important in this situation of ‘comfort’ yet was so important in terms of infection control. They do add a further layer of meaning to the image beyond the ‘pieta’ discussion that predominated.

  33. John Rudoff says:

    Though it is a bit unusual to cite oneself, I insert my original comment (below) which I posted in LENS when I first saw Mr. Aranda’s ‘Frame 1’ in a sequence of photos from Yemen. This is a photo so astounding that I think it is up there with ‘Napalm Girl’ or ‘Waiting Vulture.’ A couple of brief comments: First, I think Mr. Aranda is a brilliant photojournalist and obviously a committed humanitarian as well: he is engaged in the Yemeni people’s problems, and his own wish for his photos is that they focus attention on the Yemeni people. Second, he is a working guy trying to make a living in a field where this becomes more difficult by the day. If he sells prints (or licensing rights) I am not particularly bothered. I myself would buy a copy of his print if I could afford to; but it is so emblazoned in my memory, as an iconic statement of the costs of war to civilians, that I almost don’t need to.
    My LENS comment:
    “If there is any justice in the world of photojournalism, frame #1 will endure long after one must look up Saleh in the history books to recall who he was. This is one of those very rare photos that is simply perfect. No single pixel could be added or subtracted to improve it. Title it simply: “War.” You open ‘LENS’ and see this, and it simply stops you in your tracks; it leaves you breathless. This is even beyond “I wish I had shot this”; this is simply “I’m glad someone did.” Congratulations, Mr. Aranda. Be careful.”

  34. Juan Manuel Baliellas says:

    It shows that you do not know what you’re talking, just makes sensationalism, writes an article without talking to the author, you speak without knowledge of anything, not even aware of the history of photography, where great photos have served and continue to serve they pictures for other reasons, not just for you surely post them on your blog (who took the picture you have in the header of your blog?), you don´t know, among many other things such as Alberto Korda transferred his famous portrait Che to Rage Against the Machine, and that he never received anything for it. Please study, read and stop writing nonsense.

  35. Rob says:

    Dogs bark and the caravan moves on …

  36. wyatt says:

    This article comes from a good, pure place. I agree with it on a theoretical level: turning authentic art into some form of consumer goods, or commoditizing others’ suffering is definitely debasing to the art form.

    HOWEVER, this is clearly not such a case. Crystal Castles is not a Fortune 500 company. They, and their fans, are far from privileged. Have you been to a CC show? Yeah, there’s more punks and revolutionary types there than “privilged”. There’s more grad students and Peace Corps types there than Katy Perry and Justin Beiber fans. CC and their fans are not naive, they are afraid of the world they see, of how many suffer needlessly. And they want to see them, and rage against the leaders who oppress them. And wear their images to remind others of all the needless misery occurring at the hands of dictators across the world. In other words, it’s exactly what good art does: it challenges and teaches people. Aranda’s picture and the Crystal Castles III album beautifully reinforce one another. Selling out it is not.

    YOU MISS the point that the the entire Crystal Castles III album is about giving a voice to the oppressed and fighting tyrants, like those in Yemen. The album is protest art, and it complements and reinforces Samuel’s work. What is wrong with two groups are artists collaborating?

    Give a song like “Plague” or “Wrath of God” or “Child I Will Hurt You” a listen. This is not easy music. It is not for straight entertainment and consumption. It’s a big “fuck you” to the dictators of the world, creating an oppressed class, like those featured in Samuel Aranda’s work. Your aim here is noble, but you missed the mark. This is not selling out, it’s a great photo finding a home on a great piece of protest music.


  37. john manfield says:

    Hi Duckrabbit,

    For having 40-50000 visitors a month, your blog seems to have quite a few comments only when you open a controversy. Not a very nice way of promoting your photo-film business… don’t you think?


    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi John,

      In my experience this is one of the things people write when they can’t actually engage with what is written in the post.

    • Not to appear to be splitting hairs John, but a ‘controversy’ is something created when people actively discuss their disagreement over an issue, and come down on one side or the other. (OED definition: “prolonged public disagreement or heated discussion:”)

      Madeleine expressed an opinion, some people agreed with her, some others made it ‘controversial’ by disagreeing. As the issue was important and needed discussing, that was a good thing.

      It’s noticeable that you took the time to respond but for some reason did not express any opinion. Did you agree or disagree with her?

  38. john manfield says:

    Hi both,

    I am a photojourno myself. In this case, it depends on the ideology of the band and whether the people in the picture want to be in a t-shirt or not and whether they will make also a profit (as the band and the photographer) that will improve their lives. At the end of the day, profits will be delivered to both the band and the photographer, so I guess the people in the pic should have their share as well. I understand that quite a few times, photographers don’t think too much about the repercussions of their choices when they commercialize their photos but at the same time I don’t see anything wrong in a collaboration between a band and a photographer. However, to be honest, I don’t know Crystal Clear at all, don’t know whether they are activists, whether they just make music as a passion or there is some ideology behind their music that can be supported by the photo. For instance, as some posters mentioned, Rage Against the Machine did something similar and I didn’t see anything wrong in that case. They were a left wing band (which I liked a lot) and the pictures they used were strong and helped to transmit their messages.
    However, some times your posts seem to be beyond the good and the bad, and quite a bit sensationalists and it gives the impression that you look for controversy to promote your business. I miss also a bit of auto-criticism about your own work. For instance you do work for NGOs which could be criticized as well. You can find a lot of articles talking about how NGOs do more harm than good. Are you totally ok with what you do then? Is better to collaborate with and NGO than with a rock band? Some people, including me, could argue about that. And how would you feel if bloggers kept on criticizing your work because of that reason?
    By the way, I wouldn’t sale one of my photos about other people’s miseries to a rock band, unless I truly believed that they were committed with the cause for the right reasons. And, of course, after I made sure the people in the frame is well aware of the implications of being in a rock band t-shirt. In this case, reading the answers of Aranda, I doubt he thought much and/or deeply about it, which I find sad.


    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi John,

      Your point about our work and NGO’s is a good one. Our work for NGO’s has been criticized (most recently in the Guardian) and we have put the criticism up on the blog. Its vitally important these things are debated. That things thought in private are also expressed in public.


      • john manfield says:

        Hi duckrabbit,

        I see you published the guardian article in your blog. I have to admit that it’s a good strategy: you promote your business and open a debate at the same time, well done. I also think, despite your criticism to it (calling it “crappy” shows that you are not so happy about other people criticizing your work, btw) it raises very good points. You say in your blog though “In the Congo it’s a fact I found an amazing team of people, white and black, working seamlessly together to save lives”. I totally believe you are missing the point there. I worked for years in DRC and I think MSF was too patronizing, for instance. Also the NGO debate has nothing to do with the good will of the people working for them but its a much deeper one. Albert Camus wrote in his novel The Plague something like this: “goodwill without clairvoyance can cause as much havoc as evil”.
        In any case, the title of the guardian article was not something like “Duckrabbit and MSF perpetuates the cliche of the white saviour in Africa”, which are the kind of titles you use in your blog. I think the writer doesn’t even mention you. I also find interesting that assuming that it’s you the one commenter called “woodragon”, why you didn’t use the duckrabbit nickname? I mean, I really don’t care if people prefer not to reveal their names while commenting but you seem to care reading your responses to some commenters.
        Also, you say below, that debate is good and Mad sparked one… quite simplistic and very defensive, don’t you think? You obviously are a clever guy and you know as well as I do that they are different ways to spark a debate and I think a respectful one is better. Madeleine’s article, again, is aggressive, and like one commenter said well “trying too hard to look smart, but with no substance to back it up”. Btw, I miss Madeleine responses… she wrote the post and then hid??
        Obviously you think that writing a blog gives you the right to say whatever you want about anyone, with no much to back it up. And you also say debate is good but you didn’t answer my questions, which I find funny… Again, are you totally ok with collaborating with NGOs (I would add: despite they help to perpetuate conflicts in many cases)? Is better to collaborate with and NGO than with a rock band?


        • duckrabbit says:

          Hi John,

          My log-in to the guardian(and name) predates duckrabbit. But clearly I identify myself as the person who made the films.

          One persons idea of ‘respect’ is another persons idea of maintaining hierarchy.

          ‘Debate is good and Mad sparked one’. Simplistic yes. I don’t have a problem with simple things. Defensive? You’ve lost me on that one!

          Mad did respond. Here and elsewhere.

          ‘Obviously you think that writing a blog gives you the right to say whatever you want about anyone, with no much to back it up’

          Nothing to do with writing a on a blog, or hosting one, it’s called free speech John. I’m sorry it irks you so!


  39. john manfield says:

    Sorry, I got wrong the name of the band, which is Crystal Castle, not Crystal Clear. Also I forgot to mention that the way Madeleine wrote the post is a reflection about one big problem of many bloggers. She was too passionate and thought little about how the photographer could feel reading what she wrote. The post totally lacks balance and looks like an aggressive attack to the photographer. In my opinion it shouldn’t been published. I have the feeling that she didn’t think much and/or deeply about the subject either. Or maybe you could have told her to think more about it and write it again. In that way, probably the post would still bring quite a lot of traffic to your website and would be more respectful to the photographer.


    • duckrabbit says:

      Hi John,

      if ‘sensationalism’ is publicly expressing what you feel about something then I’m all for it, on the blog an elsewhere.

      The photographer gets a glimpse of how some people feel about the use of his photo. I have no problem with that.

      We are not a news service. This is a polemic, which by it’s nature is not balanced. Nor at any point does it claim to be. If you’re looking for balance I suggest reading the BJP.

      Debate is good. Mad sparked one. I’m pleased about that.

      Thanks for your comment


    • Thanks for responding John.

      You said “I have the feeling that she didn’t think much and/or deeply about the subject either. Or maybe you could have told her to think more about it and write it again. In that way, probably the post would still bring quite a lot of traffic to your website and would be more respectful to the photographer.”

      This site is not ‘edited’ other than by the various contributors (of which I am but one of several).

      Madeleine can defend herself, but I would like to point out in response to your comment above that she HAD thought about this issue. She had invested in it intellectually and emotionally several times before writing this particular post.

      See this

      and this

      I referenced some of this in a recent post

      I think there’s sometimes a time to ask these difficult questions. Is there a ‘right’ way to do so? I dont know, but I think it is better to simply grasp the nettle rather than fear the stings.


      • john manfield says:

        Hi John,

        Thanks for you response. To be honest, those links don’t show at least to me that Madeleine thought much about the subject of the photographer collaborating with a rock band. To me it shows that she thought: a rock band is something superficial and photojournalism is so deep and committed that they shouldn’t be related in any way. And also it seems to me that she kind of felt betrayed after defending the picture using pseudo intellectual arguments that show her own vanity.


        • Hello John – it wasn’t any attempt to refute your argument, nor to defend Madeleine – I would not presume to do that, it was simply to point out that her comments did not come from ‘nowhere’ but that she had previously engaged in some discussion over the ‘meaning’ of the image.

          I cant speak for Madeleine, but personally I dont think “photojournalism is so deep and committed” – some practitioners are, some are not. Some work is excellent, some is awful. There’s good and bad, and at the consumer’s end of the telescope polarized opinions exist too.

          What I think is a shame is that for many commentators it was easier to bash the messenger rather than engage with the issue at hand, one Madeleine obviously felt strongly about.

          Thank you for taking the time to engage in this discussion. There are no clear answers, but that should not prevent the issues being discussed frankly and with a degree of conviction.


  40. Max Hodges says:

    I think your conclusions here are unwarranted. When I was a teen my awareness was raised about many social/political issues via the bands I listened too. Just because money is involved doesn’t mean something is devoid of value, ethics and purpose. One woman may suffer by being reminded of that painful moment but how many more impressionable young minds googled about the original of that image and learned something about the context due that album art? Ethical arguments like this about why we shouldn’t do something are rather presumptive and peculiar to me.

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