After some weeks of investigating and reporting "Iraqian Frontline: Images from Moblogging Soldiers, Part I - Part VIII" (read all these stories in the Category "Iraq|War: Photos + Reports" and additionally "Iraq|War|Photography: The Meta Level") John Schott of Camera/Iraq ("Camera/Iraq: New Website Launched") recently wrote in "Soldier Photos":
Camera/Iraq has a continuing interest in soldier photograhy from the Middle East, and we would like to collaborate in the creation of an online exhibition of such work. We were first inspired by excellent early efforts at Phototalk... .
Unfortunately, while scouring soldier photo-blogs or cam-phone collections for that one-in-a-hundred outstanding image, Phototalk encountered pictures lifted from other sources, frequently work by professional photographers. This shouldn't be surprising, really, since the pragmatic goal of a photo-blog is to visualize one's military experience in Iraq rather than to sell photo rights or garner professional notoriety. Content and context trump artistic provenance in soldier photo-blogs.
For a photo editor, however, borrowed pictures creates the possibility of mis-attribution. Contacting soldiers by email has proven difficult because they are otherwise engaged in fighting a war, often gather and present work as a unit rather than exclusively from their own "personal vision," and frequently don't encourage communication by including email addresses or are so flooded with messages that they can not respond. Plus, of course, soldiers are under new scrutiny about what images they are placing online.
Still, the notion of editing an online exhibition is compelling. Please email us if you would like to undertake or contribute to such a project.
This is not entirely the complete story: there is a difference between telling your own war history in your words using (sometimes) other peoples images as an illustration for your text and the (how to say: very euphemistic) categorical statement: "Hey, I took these pix, I created them", which is just a stupid lie. On the other hand, time has shown that at a least one army press officer (with a certain background in photography) had taken private photos with a quality and meaning far beyond the day. It is the old question "who is doing what and how". An undisputed claim: 95 percent of all people reading this blog would present/moblog their own images and never ever other people´s images, except under very special circumstances.
John Schott writes: "The pragmatic goal of a photo-blog is to visualize one's military experience in Iraq". This is absolutely right, but who can visualize your own military experience, your daily life, better than you yourself, in your special situation? No one needs to steal pictures for that.
John Schott writes: "Content and context trump artistic provenance in soldier photo-blogs." With stolen photos? Blogged together with complete book chapters "borrowed" from famous writers? All that without a clarifying explanation?
Where (as a soldier) is your very own experience, your "content and context", if you only cite and quote and/or grab and steal for "visualizing" your "military experience"? Is is still your experience you present (as a moblogging soldier)? Borrowed presentations and visualizations of personal experiences? Do they coexist? What is the next step? Borrowed personal experiences? Where is the real life?