Sign up to my new series of talks on the History and Theory of Photography . Starts in September and it's perfect if you want an intro...
Monday, 15 September 2014
Who is Innocent and Who is Guilty?
The censorship row over Yunghi Kim's pictures of Hutu refugees had me spluttering my cornflakes over the breakfast table this morning.
In 1994, Kim was in Goma photographing the hundreds of thousands of refugees who were stuck on the volcanic wastelands around the Congoese town with little food, water or shelter. Cholera was rife and they were dying in their thousands.
Amidst all these refugees were those who had been responsible for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in neighbouring Rwanda two years earlier. In fact they were refugees as well; not all refugees are nice.
But still, they were people, as were the babies, the women, the children and the men who had played no part in the massacres. Kim didn't consider the crimes of the assassins, she looked at the human suffering those hundreds of thousands of suffering people were going through. She didn't think of who had done the killing, who done the encouraging, who had made the propaganda, or who had played a passive role in the massacres (which would have meant just about everybody over the age of ?). She simply photographed the suffering.
And this month her pictures appeared at Visa Pour L'Image at Perpignan, Kim was accused of 'revisionism' and the pictures were taken down.
This is part of what she said on the Contact Images Facebook page.
With respect to my Rwanda work, I have always been consistent and clear, in my floor talk at my exhibition and in the intro panel and wall captions, I indicated that I was not present for the barbaric and murderous rampage of the genocide that took place. I was responding to cover the humanitarian crisis -- the mass movements of people -- as they fled Rwanda for Goma. As photojournalist, I responded instinctually documenting life on the run, people frightened, burdened with possessions thirsty, hungry and fatigued. Later, along the roads and in the camps when disease took hold, it did so indiscriminately.
Some people thought it was terrible, some thought it justified. Jan Banning ( who knows a thing or two about revisionism and denial of history) thought it was justified. This is what he said on his website.