Digital Media Prompt Due Tuesday by 5pm

1. Please choose one photograph from the list of 10 most controversial photos of 2012 and post a brief response.

2. In addition, choose one photo selected by a classmate and reply with a brief response.

http://flavorwire.com/354414/the-most-controversial-photos-of-2012-2

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39 Responses to Digital Media Prompt Due Tuesday by 5pm

  1. knkern94 says:

    Okay so I’m going to respond to the picture of the two sunbathers and the capsized cruise ship. This may sound horrible considering the picture is considered controversial, but I laughed a little bit at the sight of this photo. I understand that the sinking of the ship was horrific and the deaths of the 32 people is tragic, but why even take a picture and stir up a big deal about two people tanning on a beach? Yes, maybe not the best spot and scenery, but come on give them a break. Should everyone be expeceted to pause their lives and enjoyment of things because of tragedies? I’m sure this photo was taken maybe a few days afterwards when everyone was rescued from the sink. It’s not like these people saw a sinking ship and decided OH WHATEVER LET’S TAN! Just my personal input, but that is what I hate about tabloids. The judgement and out of context ways.

    Nobody else has posted yet ….. so I guess I will wait and comment when someone does for the second half of this bloggy blog.

    • sjfrazier015 says:

      I pretty much agree with you on this one Kim. I would also like to add the idea that it is very possible that this photograph was manipulated in some way, or even photoshopped to look this way. For example, who hasn’t seen people that take pictured of themselves that look like they are holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Are they really holding it up? Not so much. Perhaps a similar manipulation of angle was used for this photograph as well. Also, earlier in this class we discussed the photograph of the congress women that were photoshopped into a picture. Although that is an example of how the manipulation was used to get positive results, this could have been done to give negative results. I think it is hardly fair to attack these people when there is so little context and so much room for error.

  2. colleenshipley says:

    I’m going to respond to the first picture of the series, of the man about to get hit by a subway. The thing I can’t wrap my head around is whose first instinct, when looking at something like this, is to whip out their phone and take a picture?? Maybe it’s because I’m a Luddite and don’t have a smart phone or an instagram or anything, but I would be more concerned for the person’s safety and well-being. Like I don’t know, try to do something to stop the train or fish him out of the tracks?I feel like the increase of technology has turned us into incapable technology drones. When something happens, our first instinct is to make a tweet or a Facebook post than to engage at the moment at hand…that’s messed up.

    I feel the same way about the picture Kim chose. So I’m going to take a different stance than she is…are we so self-absorbed that we fail to notice a ship capsizing feet away from us? However, I think my opinion of this picture hinges on what phase of the ship’s sinking this picture was taken. If it was during the fact, then these people are indeed being frivolous by sunbathing and ignoring what really matters. If it was long after the fact, their behavior is excusable. Traces of tragedy are always seen on our landscape, but that doesn’t mean those areas become unusable. For instance, old battle fields exist as memories of great loss, but that doesn’t make someone perverse or controversial for having a picnic on one.

    • knkern94 says:

      Here goes my second half of the response … WOOH!

      That subway photo reminded me of the same controversy of the picture we saw in the Newseum gallery, of the starving child and the vulture in the background. When is it a photographers duty to step in to help over staying alert and not interfearing? I think it is weird the article consoled the controversy by saying it was used for public awareness in subway safety. However, the fact that other people went and took pictures of the dead body after the fact with their cell phones is just wrong. Swarm the body to take pictures with your phone instead of using it to call her for help? What is wrong with society!

  3. alangdon93 says:

    Looking at picture number 6, the bear hug for Obama, I don’t really understand that this made it on the “Most Controversial” list. Even if it was spontaneous, it still just looks like a campaign photo. No controversy in taking it, like the other pictures. For the comments about “where was the secret service?” I am sure that the secret service is well enough trained that a harmless “bear hug” was allowed. So in my opinion it is a more controversial decision to put this in the “controversial list” than intrinsically controversial.

    • joezim1994 says:

      Response: I agree, I’m not sure why this photo is considered so controversial. Is it embarrassing? To Obama? The secret service? That guy? I don’t know, the description that they give at least doesn’t seem to warrant it being shockingly controversial. But does embarrassment equate to controversy? I agree, I think it says more about this website than anything else.

  4. Emily Schweich says:

    First, I’d like to focus on Justin Bieber’s decision to wear overalls to meet the prime minister. Who does he think he is, Corduroy? (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-pUFgDvIRdsc/Te7mDkEemvI/AAAAAAAACU8/1dAyV7MLc0A/s1600/Corduroy+Bear.jpg)

    To post on Instagram: “I hope you hate my style” isn’t going to win him any points with the Prime Minister. (See this article for the backstory:http://gawker.com/5962961/white-trash-prince-justin-bieber-wears-overalls-to-meet-the-prime-minister-of-canada?utm_campaign=socialflow_gawker_twitter&utm_source=gawker_twitter&utm_medium=socialflowhttp://gawker.com/5962961/white-trash-prince-justin-bieber-wears-overalls-to-meet-the-prime-minister-of-canada).

    With this incident, his recent marijuana use, his late arrival to a recent London concert and his recent comments that Anne Frank “would have been a belieber,” (See more on that story here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/14/showbiz/bieber-anne-frank/index.html), Justin is on a downward spiral. He may have had a humble beginning, but the fame he has enjoyed is getting to his head.

  5. Emily Schweich says:

    That all being said, I’m going to actually talk about the Paul Ryan publicity stunt at the St. Vincent de Paul society in Youngstown, Ohio. The articles linked on the page explained that Ryan called the shelter and asked to make a visit so that he could speak with some of the visitors. The Saturday coordinator for the dining hall, Juanita Sherba, was honored to host Ryan and agreed to his visit. However, Ryan arrived after breakfast when most of the patrons had already left and requested that the dining hall save dishes for him to wash. Sherba said that she would have already finished the dishes and left by the time Ryan arrived. Ryan’s visit has threatened the private support that the St. Vincent de Paul Society receives in donations, and the director of the society said that a new policy will prohibit political candidates from visiting the facilities.
    (http://www.vindy.com/news/2012/oct/16/soup-kitchen-visit-by-ryan-stirs-anger/?newswatch)

    I believe that it is completely unethical for Ryan to capitalize on this opportunity as a publicity stunt. If he had been courteous and arrived on time, his help might have been appreciated, but the visit seemed to me very insensitive and self-promoting.

    To piggyback on what others have said about the New York Post photograph of the man on the subway tracks: This photograph encapsulates the photojournalist’s conflict: To assist or to document?

    I understand that it might have been the photographer’s journalistic intention to capture the picture of the man. In a situation such as this, helping the man might have been first priority, but maybe the photographer didn’t think it was possible to help the man without risking his own life. Drawing in Sontag’s argument, was it unethical for the photographer to take the picture even though he knew he wasn’t able to help the man on the tracks? I honestly don’t think the photographer had the time for an ethical debate — he went with his gut instinct.

    That being said, I think that the photographer’s justification that he was “warning” the train with his camera flash is pretty unrealistic, and I really don’t like the way the photograph was presented on the front page: http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/files/2012/12/NY_NYP2.jpg Granted, the New York Post is a tabloid magazine that thrives on shock value, but I think that the caption almost trivializes the incident, making it look almost like an Internet meme. The photograph’s presentation is key to maintaining its integrity, and running this photogrpah on the front page with such an intrusive caption definitely compromises the photo’s integrity.

  6. joezim1994 says:

    The first picture of the man about to be hit by the subway is particularly powerful, and relevant as we discuss shocking photographs with Sontag’s book. The picture is dreadful and shocking, yes, but then what? Why does this need to be photographed? Or, perhaps the better question is, why is this something people want to see? Do we need to see these—to use a possibly paradoxical phrase—mundane horrors of things that are shocking, yet at the same time, everyday? (The website says three similar accidents have occurred in the last few days.) Should we not, then, also run pictures of every car crash or every reconstructive surgery? I am not so sure that this image prompted safer commuting; I think the larger, more disturbing concern was to sell papers by putting this shocking photo on the front page.

    • I would have to agree with Joe. This photograph also reminded me of the Pulitzer Prize photograph of the two people falling from a fire escape. To me it did not seem that there was some broader message used to incite some action throughout. The underlying current was simply to sell newspapers. You bring up some very good points that also echoes what I am thinking. Why do we show horrific images if there is nothing to be done? Are we simply trying to bring awareness?

      • This photograph also reminded me of the photograph we saw at the Newseum, of the starving child about to die and be eaten by a vulture. The response to the photograph was extremely negative, with many asking why the photographer did not step in and rescue/feed the child. This resulted the photographer’s eventual suicide. I have the same question here – why is no one helping this man? There is no one in the photograph looking for ways to help him – thus he is, as the caption says, “Doomed”, but only because no one will help him. In this case the photograph is horrific not only because the observer can do nothing but also because, presumable, the photographer could have, and chose to stand back instead.

      • dauneobrien3 says:

        Perhaps, then, it is what we don’t see in the photo that tells the more important story. Does that make the photo more valuable?

  7. sjfrazier015 says:

    I’m going to write about the photograph from the time article of the mother who still breastfeeds her child at the age of 3. The fact that the woman is breast feeding in a photograph that will be seen by millions of people is quite taboo because we tend to think of things like childbirth and motherhood as something very sacred. I know most people would personally not want to be on the cover of this magazine doing such things. But the part that takes you be surprise afterward is the caption that accompanies this photograph on the cover. “Are You Mom Enough?” I think that adding such a caption to a photograph and a story such as this is a huge leap. By doing so, the producers of this magazine are portraying that you are only “mom enough” if you breastfeed your child past the normal age to do so. At this day and age, a large amount of mothers choose not to breastfeed their children at all and by putting “breastfeeders” and “mom enough” into the same category could potentially be very offensive to many American mothers. And lets not forget how this photograph will affect this boy when he gets older…not awesome.

    • alangdon93 says:

      Response: I agree! My main thought looking at this is less the embarrassment of the woman in the picture, but that little boy as his middle school and high school classmates find this picture, As Sarah mentioned not only is the actual visual image shocking and in a way argumentative, the captions evoke a “picking a controversial fight” feeling as well. It almost seems to me like the editors were trying too hard to be controversial with this cover. I wonder if this knowledge of their intent to be controversial, detracts from the shocking experience. For example, if it is obvious that my little sibling is picking a fight with me, it is easier to ignore it or write off the comment.

    • Ross Fasman says:

      I think your analysis of the caption was very interesting as a commentary on societal norms. I do think that society imposes frames to look and interpret different pictures and different literature. So by saying that the caption implies a certain “norm” in breast-feeding past a certain age, it opens up dialogue for ideas just as you had yourself but also forces upon the picture a certain interpretation.

      But I do want to say that the picture itself isn’t taboo by nature—it’s taboo to, as I introduced, societal “norms”. But that doesn’t make the picture itself inherently controversial. I think the normalcy and nonchalance by which it is being portrayed makes it controversial, which in turns means., we are the ones making it controversial. Very interesting choice.

  8. alangdon93 says:

    Response: I agree! My main thought looking at this is less the embarrassment of the woman in the picture, but that little boy as his middle school and high school classmates find this picture, As Sarah mentioned not only is the actual visual image shocking and in a way argumentative, the captions evoke a “picking a controversial fight” feeling as well. It almost seems to me like the editors were trying too hard to be controversial with this cover. I wonder if this knowledge of their intent to be controversial, detracts from the shocking experience. For example, if it is obvious that my little sibling is picking a fight with me, it is easier to ignore it or write off the comment.

  9. I have decided to respond to the breast feeding mother picture. I remember this photograph being highly controversial, yet I had very little problems with it. There has been arguments on the ethical and moral dilemmas that women face when breast feeding. Is it okay to breast feed in public? And frankly, since there is no sexual connotation to the experience, I do not think that there should be as much debate as there is. This photograph pokes at the heart of this debate, where motherhood and the bond between a child is tested throughout. The act itself is controversial, and to show this side so openly in public is also highly contentious. Another aspect is the age that the child is still breastfeeding. Seeing as the child is three, some may take that as a too advanced age for breastfeeding. That would also shock the population, but it is again her choice, and what she believes is best. I think that if America were to get over their aversion to female motherhood and the realities that accompany it, this photograph would be a lot less controversial.

    • I agree with Melanie, I think this photograph is controversial because the issues behind it are controversial, of the best way to raise children and of how acceptable breast feeding is. This image takes a strong stand in the debate, putting it in public, and I feel like one of the main points was the age of the child. But, by putting it as a magazine cover, I think its intent was clearly to be controversial and to invite discussion.

  10. I am responding to the photograph of Whitney Houston. This created such a controversy because it is a clear violation of both Houston and her family’s privacy. One of the main purposes of photography is to preserve history and the truth, and to inform the public, to spread information. While the public undoubtedly had an interest in these proceedings, this was not an instance where they had a right to this information, it brings no benefit besides satisfying a macabre curiosity and bringing monetary gain to the photographer. It is only harmful and disrespectful to Houston and her family, making public a personal, private, and highly emotional event. I think it was made worse by the fact that it was Houston’s face that was the most prominent photograph. In Sontag, it was discussed that in war photography, typically the faces of dead bodies were not photographed, as it was seen as too morbid and disrespectful to their memory and sacrifice. It was only the bodies of foreign or enemy soldiers whose faces could be acceptably photographed. The display of her face makes the photographs even more disrespectful, showing no regard or respect for her even in death.

    • shjones says:

      I do agree that the images of Houston were completely unnecessary. The public is far too obsessed with cultural icons to a point where they find looking at the dead bodies of their celebrities entertaining, and not in a voyeuristic way. The fact that the pictures were in a publication such as the Enquirer doesn’t help. Generally, the National Enquirer is considered a tabloid, and as such, caters to such disrespectful public intrusions.

  11. I thought the photograph of Tim Tebow was more amusing than anything else, although I could certainly see someone finding it distasteful. I find it ironic that the sports symbol of Christianity would have agreed to take a picture comparing him to Jesus, although it’s possible that he simply raised his arms like that and the editors decided to put that picture in the magazine. Regardless, I think it shows that those who work at the magazine, and possibly Tebow, do not seem to take Christianity very seriously at all. The photograph itself is not controversial but the ideas it captures are.

    • I totally agree. When I saw it, I started laughing. Chances are that the photographer just told him to pose like that as an after-thought and then decided that it would make for a good story and be very fitting of Tebow’s reputation as the good Christian boy. People get offended too easily.

  12. The photograph that touched me the most from the selection was the one of the two people sunbathing by the downed cruise ship. I wish I had not read the description of the photograph because I feel that the image by itself told a much more interesting story.

    The photograph is like a piece of magical realism, where the otherwise mundane and normal, people setting out on a beach, cohabits the unusual and the impossible. How quaint would it be for people to celebrate death and decay, to be attracted to the rust and old rather than the novel and popular. I love it when a picture seems to portray something that is absurd; it gives universality to humor. Like a pun that only serves to poke fun at language, a photograph such as this one buoyantly (see what I did there) ridicules the peculiar ways objects can line up on a camera lens. Also like a pun, a photograph such as this one has a certain ambiguity to it, in which the viewer does not know if what represented is on purpose or a casual accident.

    However, the photograph loses its mirth when the real story is told. Yes, the photograph may still portray vacationers using a site of a nautical disaster as their touristic spot, but the fact that this is a real, purposeful event only ruins the joke. The reality of such shameless attraction to the disastrous is only troubling. Otherwise, the un-captioned photograph would have served as satirical commentary. There is nothing wrong with criticizing society, but it is not a laughing matter the subjects addressed are actual occurrences.

    • I am not sure that this photo is a joke. It seems to be emphasizing something else, that the cruise ship wreck has become part of the scenery. Maybe even that people easily acclimate to shocking events, that they stop paying attention and worrying about them, if the initial shock has worn off.

  13. shjones says:

    The photograph that got the biggest reaction out of me was the third one. It is the one that reads “Muslim Rage”. This is because out of all the problems facing our country that were depicted, I think that this was the most severe: racism. The pervasiveness of such uniformed biases has led to and will continue to lead to popular misunderstanding and international conflict. This is true on both sides of the conflicts, not just for Americans. The picture is of men that “happen” to look like the stereotypical male Muslims portrayed in Hollywood. By representing them this way, the image makes the specific a general, saying all Muslims look like this. Then, by capturing the men in expressions that incite fear in the viewer, the picture says that all Muslim men are fearsome and dangerous.

    • I agree with you Scott. This reminds me of a discussion I got into today with my classmates in my seminar “Immigration Issues in the U.S.” We were asked how we would actually define the work, Terrorist.” Most of us had a general consensus that would could not actually define the word. The word can be constructed into so many definition depending on ones perspective. Growing up the post 9/11 era, most of us in this generation have a biased point of view of what a terrorist is. Many of us imagine a Middle Eastern man with a turban screaming some prayer on the top of his lungs. However, many of us (including the media) never refer to the people like the shooter and Sandy Hook or Virginia tech a terrorist. Rather, they are referred to as gun man or mass murderer. We all discussed how this may be due to the reason that our nation would never want to label something related to the U.S. as a terrorist act out of natural reasons. This photograph just reminded me of how the media can control some much of what we think. It’s all about perspective, like the famous phrase, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

      P.S. I am NOT trying to sound like I support terrorism, I am just trying to display to power of perspective and different points of view.

    • maxinesrich says:

      I completely agree with you, Scott. I become highly frustrated when Americans attribute acts of terrorism to all Muslim people, or even all people of Arab descent. Hate crimes, such as the recent shooting as a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, infuriate me, and such an inflammatory image, attributing anger to all Muslims and all people who, as you pointed out, fit the Arab stereotype, just spurs more violence. Mass media should not be taking such a stance against a people just because a minority of them have become radical and militant against the US.

  14. Elana says:

    I am going to respond to image #9: the photograph of the two tourists sunbathing while a ship is sinking nearby. At first glance, my thoughts were very negative of the couple sunbathing. I wondered how they could be so insensitive and blase about such a horrible accident happening so close to them. How could they be so heartless and not even feign disbelief? How could they not help those in dire need? But, after a minute I realized that, truth be told, there isn’t much the tourists could have done even if they wanted to. And, who knows, maybe the photo isn’t as it seems. Maybe the tourists were with a third person who ran to get help from the authorities and these two on the beach figured that since they can’t help alone they’d wait for the authorities to arrive. Who knows? I just think it would be fair to give them the benefit of the doubt before judging their characters by a photo that captures a second of their life and being.

    • esrayagoub says:

      I agree with what you have to say. We just don’t know enough about what is going on beyond the photo to judge the people in it. Initially I though that the image might just make the ship look like it is close to them, but in reality it may be to far away for them to get too. And who knows maybe the couple had already tried to approach the ship and rescue crews told them to stay back so they could get their job done (or as you said they may have simply realized them getting up wasn’t going to help anyone). Or maybe they jumped up the second after the photo was taken. The picture makes me curious about the couple and the photographer. I really wan to know what the photographer was trying to capture with this image.

  15. Maybe it’s just because I hate Justin Bieber, but the last photo is just stupid. The comment under it even acknowledges how stupid it is. They say “the most controversial photo of the year…just kidding” and then “surely we missed something important.” So if you recognize that the photo should not be there, why is it? The other option they had was a picture of Miley Cyrus and her new haircut, another celebrity story of course. The reason Justin Bieber does disrespectful things like wear sloppy overalls and a nasty white t-shirt to meet the Canadian Prime Minister is because our society condones it and it will get him more publicity. Celebrities get away with everything just because they’re rich and famous. Someone needs to kick Bieber off his high horse and tell him to have some respect. In case you couldn’t tell, I really hate that our society is so focused on celebrity gossip. WHO CARES?

    • Elana says:

      I 100 percent agree with you. I, personally, am not one for following celebrity news even though I am a journalism major. The reason is because I don’t care about the celebrities’ personal lives. That is their business, not mine. Honestly, I think the last picture ruins the credibility of the article in a way. By equating Justin Beiber’s outfit to people who experienced extreme terror (like getting hit by a train for example), it is almost as if the author of the article is turning everything into a joke. It is pretty tasteless and disrespectful in my opinion.

  16. esrayagoub says:

    The seventh picture just mad me think “why bother?” I hadn’t seen the picture before or heard of the controversy and my first though when I saw that was that is was staged. I get that politicians want to make themselves look good, but staging a photo just makes you look so much worse. A photo op was a risky move, and at that this one was poorly executed. I felt the photo made him look like he was helping from behind the scenes. A better shot would have been him actually interacting with the homeless at the shelter. And the way he was dressed was just ridiculous (that goes for the lady behind him too). I have volunteered at my fair share of soup kitchens and no one was wearing a tie. He needed to dress more like he wanted to be there and was ready to serve food for a few hours. Aside from the fact that the photo was poorly staged, I don’t object too much to the fact that he wanted to stage it in the first place. Yeah, most people would argue that it is unethical, but the way I see it, nearly everything about the political world is unethical, which makes this photo op a minor offense.

    • Yeah, I think that the idea of providing a picture of a 24/7 political candidate being altruistic or volunteering is mostly pointless. Obviously they would never even have the time to do such a thing. However, an interesting question is whether such photographs keep getting produced because campaign managers actually still think they work.

      Is it groupthink that leads campaigns to create such criticized photography? Maybe campaign managers know something about the advertising effects of such pictures that, despite the derision and criticism they receive, makes them worthwhile circulating. After all, we can’t actually record what the average person’s reaction to such imagery is. Maybe most people that see this picture in a magazine or newspaper will come off with a positive impression of it but never speak a word about it. Who are we, as those that actually dig deep into the background of a photograph, to say that such a picture will only make politicians look worse? Perhaps they will gain votes from it in the long run, despite how mischievously they produced the photograph.

  17. I want to comment of the photograph of the fatal shooting at the Empire State building. This is a very explicit photograph. Even though you can barely see the victim’s face who was shot, the beaming color of the blood is very apparent. The blood almost looks fake because it looks as though it is glowing. In this way, I feel like the photo was not suppose to show the victim, but rather the tragic event that occurred. I cannot tell if by doing this there is a dehumanizing factor or not. I think it is actually a good think the photographer did not get a clear, full frontal view of the person’s face. I personally wouldn’t want my own body to be captured like paparazzi and put on the front page of a newspaper. Also, because this picture was taken from above, does that mean that it was taken by a civilian just looking out their window? Or was it an actual photographer? If it was a photographer, I wonder why they chose to take it from above rather than on the pavement where the woman was lying.

  18. The picture I chose was the one from Newsweek, with the angry men and the caption “Muslim Rage.” This picture emphasized the importance of the caption to the meaning of the image. Without the caption, there would have been many more possible interpretations of the image – maybe the men are mourning a lost son or friend, maybe they are protesting their government and are being attacked by their own police forces. The title makes it clear that the point of Newsweek’s publication of the image was to stereotype a billion people with one image.

  19. Ross Fasman says:

    Not many people chose the one with the on-coming train and the man awaiting his death–as such, I’ll make a few comments on that one.

    As I’ve said many times in class, the inevitability of death is sometimes more heart-wrenching than the sights of death itself. I felt that the on-coming train had a greater ‘punctum’ for me because he was waiting to be struck. This is a very difficult concept to handle, but also makes it digestible because we don’t, at least I don’t expect us to, understand death until it actually happens and by that point it may or may not matter, which is relieving in a sense. Death is a very abstract concept because it is inevitable and yet completely unforeseen.

    But this person knows death is a few seconds away–what happens in those few seconds? Are they long? Short? Does the man think? The photograph cannot capture and answer these questions. The person that was killed by the Empire State Building is already deceased. But the person waiting for the train I felt was more dead than the person that was already dead.

    Very gut-wrenching.

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