As well as taking photographs, I collect them; photography has been a lifelong passion. Some of you may know my photo credit for the photographs I
took on September the 11th and the months that followed. Very few people have seen my personal collection of photographs, only a few are on the wall.
Photography Schools and Schools for the Visual Arts don't teach classes on how to read a photograph, even though we are a visual society, constantly stimulated by movie stars, pornography and war, and at times they appear together in a film. Right now I'm looking at two different images, one: a Black & White photograph of a bombed building, the building appears to have seven floors, however it's hard to tell due to the amount of damage, the
right façade is ruined. This is a hotel, The King David Hotel where in June of 1946 a little known terrorist by the name of Menachem Begin would begin his career. Over ninety people would die in that June day; many had families, or at least Mothers. Not too different than the average mortality rate in Iraq today, the photographs are now digital instead of film so that
we can see these images faster, makes you wonder about the speed of our
priorities. Menachem Begin would later become Prime Minister; it seems in
the Middle East, being a terrorist is a prerequisite for being Prime
Minister; you need look only to Israel, Iraq, Iran or Palestine for role
models. But, a photograph does not give you the why or how, it's just an
image followed by text, credits and footnotes - you must do the rest.
Photography is more democratic than the democracy it promotes or
illustrates. As for the second photograph, one that appeared on the The New York Times; July the 14th, 2006 by Adnan Hajj - it looks like the 4th of
July in New York Harbor, bright sensuous colors which made me buy the paper, lights flickering in the background, very beautiful and sensual, only it's not New York, it's Lebanon and the fireworks are laser guided missiles. It will be several months until families can recover their loved ones, if at that point they can recognize them, photography can be very abstract - and
also an ultimate truth. Truth, is a funny thing, it is a perception within a photograph, within someone's dearest memory of love and loss.
War is costly, much like acclaimed photographs of it, but where do these Governments get this money to help produce a photograph? At this point you might wonder why photography is a passion of mine, it is fraught with intrigue and disillusionment instead of enlightenment, it's main purpose. We Americans supply the cash, right now as I type this, an aid package of laser-guided bombs is going to Israel and another package of Band-Aids is
going to Lebanon, they are going to need them. The journalist Lou Dobbs wrote earlier this week that The United States gives 2.5 billion a year to the Israel Government (which I think is a little low, a lot more) and to Lebanon we give 40 million, but no laser guided bombs. All for a photograph that ends up on a newspaper, that your cat uses, or for an exhibit at your local museum. This is not a FIMA Operation, though the same administration
is in charge, the ship is not going to New Orleans where it is needed.
Money, the billions of it we throw into the wind, is the circle of violence.
One side always has more and why, what did they ever do to deserve it.
There are calls for more bloodshed, more photographs, more bloodshed, more photographs will be taken until we are sick of it, or have we become so numb that we don't feel. We enjoy this lust, as long as we don't have to dirty our hands, but our hands aren't dirty - there bloody. The death of U.N. Observers, which mirrors an deliberate act of the sinking of the USS Liberty in 1967 in international waters is a war crime, but who are the criminals,
those that pull the trigger or those that supply the means. Their families are lost in anger, and no government agency can replace such a loss.
Whether you live in Northern Israel or Lebanon, after the dust settles your most important remains will be a photograph or the family album, a memory of a gentler time when a family was united, the photograph will also torment you, remind you of your loss, remind you of your own idleness as you are helpless, without any control. Now a refugee, like so many others standing in line, hoping to feed your children, maybe have your photograph taken.
* John Patrick Naughton is an acclaimed photographer whose images of the aftermath of 9-11 terrorist attacks are exhibited at Buena Vista University. A longtime friend of the Pilot-Tribune, he occasionally shares his thoughts on our editorial pages.