I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...
Thursday, 3 November 2016
Partisan versus Balanced Honest versus Wilfully Ignorant
Raised by Wolves from Jim Goldberg on Vimeo.
I got quite excited over the weekend over an article (that I didn't read in full - ah, no, I have now) about a film that I haven't seen. You can read a critique of the article here.
The article was by Camilla Long (she's the journalist who opened an interview with Michael Fassbender with the line, "So what's it like to have a big cock" and ended it with saying he flirted with her). The article I'm talking about was about I, Daniel by Ken Loach.
I like the idea of Ken Loach, a socially committed film-maker who deals with really important issues. I, Daniel is a film that details the effect of this government's benefits change and the very real violence they are inflicting on the poor of the UK.
Camilla Long objected to details in the film not ringing true. That is embedded into other criticisms of the film which may be fair enough. But the language of the criticism of the truth of elements in the plot is what sticks and reveals either her own privileged ignorance at work or a politically nuanced editorial line at work.
From what I've heard, everything in the film rings very true. The characters might be two-dimensional (I don't know), but what happens to them is something very real. One of the reasons I won't be going to see the film is because my wife won't come with me because basically this is her job. She works in a world where people are under threat of benefit cuts, eviction, deportation, bankruptcy every day. There are lots of Daniel Blakes in her life already.
If you are in the UK and you're not wearing blinkers-of-privilege, you know the kind of thing. It's like the Monty Python sketch where the knight has no arms or legs but he still wants to fight. But here, it's a man with no arms or legs who's being told that he can still work - "You've got a tongue haven't you. You can be a stamp-licker." And if you don't do the job, then you lose the benefits, your home, everything.
Another potential objection to the film is it's not balanced. I'm not sure it needs to be balanced. It's telling a story about what happened to one man. The only crime is that it is about a poor man, a disabled man, a man who is not at the top of the economic order. Where does the balance need to be?
Or perhaps the film is partisan? I would bloody well hope so. In a world where television, newspapers, publishing, the government, every political party marginalises and dismisses the poor, the unfortunate, 'the crippled and lame' (Luke 14:13 - yes, time for some Bible today. It's good for atheists too) without a thought for bipartisanship or equity of voice, of course he should be partisan. If anything, he's not partisan enough. He should be screaming from the rooftops, shouting abuse and throwing things. He's far too nice for that. That's because he lives in Bath. I live in Bath. It's lovely. We don't shout abuse and throw things. Not most of the time anyway.
More people should be partisan. More photographers should be partisan. Should call people bastards and point the finger. I wonder (every year pretty much on this blog) why they aren't. So many photographers profess to be progressive and get outraged about exploitation in photography and the like, yet fail to reflect that in the overwhelmingly dull work that often passes for photojournalism or documentary.
I'm not sure why that is. I guess it's because there's still the myth of the objective truth-telling photographer and there is the dominating voice of documentary - which is one of sobriety. But really! The sober voice is a boring voice. You should be shouting abuse and throwing things.
The other reason is photographers are scared of offending those who might potentially give them custom and help them make a living. You don't want to offend the wealthy and powerful; they own the magazines, the companies, the galleries, the universities, the foundations, they publish your work, they buy your work, they commission your work, they show your work.
Essentially we should be fucking the rich with photography, not literally, but metaphorically. Instead, photography is, as always, serving the rich, it is giving it a right royal tongue-up-the-arse servicing. How did that happen? How does it continue to happen? Or am I missing something?
Anyway, as an antidote to all that, Jim Goldberg has a so-called bootleg edition of Raised by Wolves available. I don't think too many school libraries will be buying it (you'll have to give it away, Jim - there's an idea) because it a bit pricey. But it looks worth it.
Buy Raised by Wolves here