I took this photo of my friend at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. The permanent exhibit at the museum begins with the image in the background. She faces away from the cruel image, disturbed by what she sees; however, she has the luxury of looking away, as explained by Susan Sontag in Regarding the Pain of Others. Sontag describes us, the audience, as viewers who cannot empathize with the subjects because “we” cannot relate to the circumstance. As a result, we are less likely to remember the image or consider its impact. My photo depicts an onlooker who is choosing to turn away from the cruelty of the exhibit. Although she looks distressed and may feel sorrow, she is not moved to action. In the Humanities program, we questioned the power of photography and media over the public. After studying Sontag, the Rwandan Genocide through the words of Philip Gourevitch, and the photographs of James Nachtwey, I have realized that while traumatic photos and news may impact a person initially, they generally do not change people’s action. A change in action requires a personal experience and without one, it is easy to look away from the trauma. In fact, our conscience may entice us to look at the trauma, but we are able to look because we know we can eventually look away. And forget about it; however, it should also be recognized that this photo excludes other visitors in the museum—people who may have been mourning for their friends, family, or their own identity. Some visitors may have been called to action by their visit. This photo frames a completely different experience in which the subject remains in silence over the horrific image behind her. The recognition of exclusion is crucial to the value of photography.
For my collaborative piece, I partnered with McNeill Franklin and Skylar McVicar to create a podcast in which we discussed questions relating to our portfolio themes and our experience in the course. We did take tangents throughout our discussion, but we chose to leave the podcast unedited to challenge normative framing techniques and provide a raw discussion that the audience would expect to find in a typical Humanities section discussion. The first three discussions were done the first semester of t he course. The last discussion is a tailored version of the first three and is heavily influenced by the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of quarantine, the podcast is in Zoom format rather than a traditional podcast.
Humanity in Crisis: Skylar, McNeill and Grant on the Body, Identity, and Framing Amidst a Global Pandemic
“Home” by Warsan ShireHome
Blackout Poetry on “Home”Untitled-document-9
“Away” by Grant HearneUntitled-document-10
The basic goal of blackout poetry is to take a piece of text and turn it into a new piece of poetry. Often, this leads to a piece with an entirely new structure, tone, and meaning. In one sense, blackout poetry is a way of masking the original piece. The focus of my poetry is not so much on the meaning of the new poem but rather on the dichotomy between my poem and the original poem, “Home,” by Warsan Shire. “Home” takes the reader on the journey of the modern refugee, characterizing the traumatic, cruel experience at every step. Shire employs tones of sorrow and frustration. In contrast, my poem, “Away,” employs tones of joy and carelessness, implying a state of freedom and the pursuit of adventure. The mask of “Away” on “Home” symbolizes the framing of the refugee experience and the thoughtlessness that is given to refugees by the outside world. The state of the refugee crisis is constantly mitigated and overlooked by governmental powers across the world. The media follows suit by not emphasizing coverage of the crisis. In doing so, they are framing the refugee crisis as it is presented to the public. A mask is placed on the vulnerable. As a result, fewer people are called to action or motivated to create change.