It's hard to imagine a world without images. Pictures verify, confirm and validate the unimaginable. But happens when there are no photos? Are we left only to speculate what really happened? Are we left only to believe what we hear others tell us?
This seems to be the case in the recent shooting incident in Afghanistan. Already mired in a string of events including the burning of quarans at a U.S. military base, the public is offered what is often referred to as "react" photos. Photographers scramble to find images of substance after the fact in order to support reports that seem unsubstantiated or confusing.
In our increasingly broadening visual lexicon, these types of images have become cliche -- a flood of tears running down faces or the foregrounding armed soldiers holding back an angry crowd.
There are two predominant focal lengths used for such images -- a telephoto and a wide angle. The images produced by these lenses are distinct and serve different purposes.
The long lens, anything over 80mm, condenses the space between foreground and background, making the picture appear more immediate and intense. This lens choice is also extremely effective for highlighting emotion and provides a sense of intimacy with the subject. In this case, the viewer identifies more readily with the grieving youth. In other words, the use of a telephoto to tell a story is a technique that is dramatic and appeals to our emotions more often than our intellect.
A wide shot, is used typically for providing a context for the scene much in the same way an establishing shot works in cinema. Providing context for a story is essential and the wide angle image does this very well. At issue, the familiarity we have with viewing the world through these dominant perspectives. What do we actually learn about an event other than what is represented through the long and short of it all?
I suggest that many images from the conflict are less about edification and more about filling a void when words fall short. In the Aghan shooting case, the images are part of a post-visual event -- occurences that offer visual representations as a norm for explaning complicated world issues.