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December 30, 2009

(A Photo-Activist Take on the) ‘09 Photos of the Year: Now War is Coming into People’s Houses

Suau World Press 08 award.jpg

If you read the original post and the excellent discussion thread based on Anthony Suau’s 2008 World Press Photo of the Year, you’ll appreciate how much the context and understanding of a photo tends to shift with the times.

Back in early February, before the gravity and dimension of the recession had really hit home, this photo seemed to be mixing metaphors, combining war photography and the still-familiar image of U.S. troops storming Iraqi homes with something stirring on the home front. Looking at the photo today, a year into the ringing pain of the mortgage crisis, there is nothing ambiguous about it.

As one reader, Valkyrie607 wrote:

Looking closer at the photo, I see that this is not Iraq, not the middle east; this is a policeman, not a soldier, and the overturned furniture is even more familiar than the violence on the TV news. I recognize the careful tiling in the bathroom, the carefully carved frame of the cupboard door hanging open. The violence implicit in the cop’s careful aim breaks through: this could be the house next door.

What this photo drives home is that the people missing from the image, the evicted ones, are unaccounted for by our most brilliant economists. They are hunted by the police, but only (so genteel!) as a formality. And we are like them. We are the system’s externalities….

(photo: Suau’s original slideshow: “Tough Times In Cleveland” for TIME)

  • Wayne Dickson

    Given its having won the award, I accept that this is a legitimate news photo. It sure looks staged, though. Even the door chime up on the wall is askew, and the cop is aiming his pistol the way Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson used to do it in the old Sherlock Holmes films. I think that’s interesting.

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