Photos to tell a story

I expect you all have photos, interesting photos, kids photos… even well-taken photos. I just feel like posting a few I have taken this week while out and about, walking around on my own, with Finlay the dog, and with friends on the bird walk (but no bird photos, they fly away). Nothing special yet everywhere ordinary is quite lovely. Click for bigger pictures.

And, in between being out and about I am reading a book about one photo which was taken quite a while ago, in 1957. The book is Elizabeth and Hazel, by David Margolick, the story of two women who were born just the year before me, Elizabeth on the same day as my sister. Fifteen years old in 1957, they attended school in Little Rock, Arkansas. I remember hearing the name of that town, the place where school desegregation hit world headlines, and Hazel (white) and Elizabeth (black) got caught in a photo which is now a book. I am riveted by this book (and there is a video and info about it here ).

Original caption states "A photograph tak...
Original caption states “A photograph taken by Will Counts of Elizabeth Eckford attempting to enter Little Rock School on 4th September, 1957. The girl shouting is Hazel Massery. ” See Little Rock Nine for context. This image was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for Photography. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you too are appalled by ignorance and hate and the ways in which difference gets used as a vehicle for throwing that hate and anger somewhere that can’t throw back, read it. It is even more appalling how those who had the power, possibly, to help, either failed utterly to use it helpfully, or worse, used it to compound the hate. Margolick manages to show how very very hard it is for those who do not hate, to stand up and say so, and for those who do, to find where it maybe should be going.

Failing to stand… we are all guilty sometimes.

What is riveting is also how very similar it seems to other contexts, and how much we are all human and vulnerable and need help.

Maybe all photos tell a story.

But, apparently Hazel, who does not come out of this story well, said once: To them it’s a picture, To me, it’s me.

Let’s listen as well as looking at photos.

(I don’t seem to be managing to write this without sounding smug. I would love some replies – what do you think about sharing photos, especially newsworthy photos and what they can say, never mind how I sound?)

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9 thoughts on “Photos to tell a story

  1. About sharing these kinds of photos – I think it’s necessary to do it and at the same time, it’s uncomfortable for various reasons – sounding smug, holier than thou, or not wanting to rock the boat.

    As long as she wasn’t violent, then in some ways I have more sympathy for Hazel than for those who stood on the sidelines and did nothing, waiting to see which way the wind was blowing.

    I just have to hope I would not be a Hazel and not be fence sitter.

    (You don’t sound smug to me, by the way – far from it)

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    1. I feel fortunate to have been born into a family who tried to teach tolerance – so many are not, in fact quite the opposite. i think I was trying to say it is hard to know how to be when speaking up puts you or more importantly, yours, into a firing line. And then I go tmuddled about the right of news photographers to immortalise an event in someone’s life … anyway… thanks for replying

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  2. You’re right – failing to stand up and be counted is tantamount to agreeing with the status quo, and if that’s bullying, hatred and intolerance, then that makes us bullying intolerant haters – which most of us are not. Just cowards, perhaps, or over-cautious, or protective of our families. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now apropos a photograph I took a while ago and have been wanting to post – but have been afraid it will ruffle some feathers, and I don’t want to be controversial, i just want to show another side of life. Which is, I suppose, what news photographers do.

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  3. Every single photograph ever taken, has a story to tell of some sort. Just before reading this post, I was thinking about a post for Christmas – if I go ahead with it, it will be the first time I’ve posted anything without a image to accompany the post. I found inspiration in this, as well as affirmation. I have said often, I really don’t trust words all that much, but a photograph or image I can believe, not necessarily image itself, but rather the feelings and response it evokes within me. A brave, an insightful message for the time year. As this is the time in which many of us find ourselves reflecting on events of the past and of the future that lays just around the corner. I must read this book as I too have heard of this town and what it came thereafter.

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    1. I really enjoy your posts, and the thoughtfulness of your comments. I find words just as difficult as photos when they ‘fix’ a meaning or a moment – but then I realise that the problem is not the words/photo but my and I suppose others assumption that they represent some enduring truth rather than a way to express the emotion or thought of that moment. [Is scientific work different? I am also reading the Idiot’s guide to string theory] Thank goodness change is possible even if wiping out the past is not. If you decide to post for Christmas – I will read with interest – best wishes too

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  4. Elspeth, you never seem smug. Thoughtful, warm, empathetic and challenging, but never smug.
    Images can provoke very powerful images and so can be more complex than words, and tell very different stories to many people.
    I don’t always post images, often because I’m too busy burbling about nothing!
    Enjoy Christmas with your BI family, and I always look forward to more of your images and thoughts x

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