"Is it possible to put an end to a form of human behavior, which has existed throughout history, by means of photography?" - James Nachtwey -
Antonio, Watching the video brought back feeling I haven't felt for many years. It was almost like being there myself, but it didn't cause me to identify emotionally. I once again became the ultimate voyeur. A complete disconnection with the events I was seeing through the viewfinder.
I cannot see how photography will ever put an end to war. It motivates some in ways that are impossible to explain rationally. It's propaganda that cuts both ways. One group is aroused to the defensive survival mode, while another group sees only the horror and pain.
For anyone that has never experienced the rush of adrenaline death can rouse, when one knows that it can arrive momentarily there are no words that will serve the purpose. Those that have survived combat have a comradeship with every other person that has done the same, even the enemy.
Until old men that send young men off to war have to fight themselves nothing will change. It is the human condition
If a pictorial record of an event can be basis for a legal case that is definitely changing the world for the people involved in the case. The point of the videos is showing us (the world) events that we are mostly unaware of, hoping to cause a reaction of some sort in our behavior. This reaction could be voting for a different candidate, taking personal action, reading more and earning some knowledge about the facts to inform others... whatever, but it definitely has the potential to change the world in my opinion. What these photographers do is amazing and I pray that God blesses them all for their courage and determination to inform.
I think it depends upon the definition of "change the world." Certainly, some photographs have affected people directly.
For example, William Henry Jackson's photographs of the Yellowstone area documenting the Hayden Expedition; and the resulting images, caused a public sensation leading Congress to designate the area as the first National Park in 1872. If you extrapolate out from that point, countries all over the world have used the National Park model to designate areas in their countries as national parks or wildlife reserves.
photos may not be like bombs in their ability to change the world dramatically and immediately. But, some images have profound, if subtle and more slow, effects. Note the Bush administration's suppressive ban on photos of military funerals and caskets returning from Iraq, for fear that the populace might become as engaged and disgusted as we were during the Vietnam war and demand an end to this one like we did that one. Or the news media's visual and vocal cheerleading as this Iraq debacle began, "photojournalists" embedded with troops, as if following around a football team instead of an army going to war. Those images of our "trusted" and known regular reporters, safe in the arms and humvees of our troops, are in part responsible for the abandon with which a people allowed a government to trick them into sending their sons and daughters to die for no reason. And note how there haven't been daily close-up images on network or cable television of the death and destruction in Iraq for years now as this war continues far in the unvisualized background of most of our lives who don't have family or friends serving. Change the world, you bet.
Photography has so many uses, and I see all of them with an ability to "change the world," although this is a very general term. Photojournalism for example, falls into the category of mass media, and is in fact a vehicle for pointing out things that are going on in our world that are in need of attention. Just because we don't necessarily act on the information journalists bring us doesn't mean the information won't eventually be used as reason for change. Media is the ONLY way any of us can form an opinion of what is going on in places we can't get to, and thus, photography as part of that media has a major role in public opinion, how we vote etc.
We seem to be fixed in this discussion on major world events like wars, but what about the less noted, but no less important changes that can come about in our personal, private lives as a result of seeing photographs? Can't an experience with a photograph remind us of our humanity, and that we should love one another, also then spur us on to go out in the world and change our small piece of it?
Actually I'm not addressing a different question. I'm addressing the same question differently from you. The question was not whether photography can change the world as much as inventions such as the wheel. The question was certainly not whether ONE photograph can change the world that much. The question, unqualified, was "Can photography change the world?" It can and it does, as the numerous examples show that I and several others have supplied.
It's very rare that an Einstein or a Bill Gates comes along. The world changes by virtue of giant steps and by virtue of baby steps. What we each do in our own miniscule way has the ability to change the world at least in some way. If I adopted your attitude, I'd never vote, because only one of 100,000,000 votes doesn't seem like it would change things or make much difference. You have only to look at Florida in the 2000 election to imagine what would have happened if a few more democrats had thought the way I do! The reason each one of us doesn't litter is because, each in our very small way, contributes to the health of the planet. The reason each of us follows laws is that it contributes to the health of the community. Of course every little thing we do affects the world. And photography, using visual imagery can, as you say, be "powerful." What do you mean by "powerful" if not the ability to stimulate some sort of change? Is "powerful" some kind of benign and passive adjective or does it suggest just the kind of dynamic many of us are talking about?
Sure, we can wait for the next Alexander Graham Bell. For that matter, we can continue to wait for the Messiah, or another coming. Or we can stop waiting and recognize other individual and social mechanisms for change.