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Regarding the Pain of Others: images created by James Nachtwey Essay

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Updated: Jul 15th, 2019

The ability to observe various social phenomena can eventually contribute to the changes in the community. Admittedly, this statement may seem paradoxical, but it can be illustrated in this essay.

In particular, this paper is aimed at discussing the way in which witnessing and recognizing the suffering of others can affect our ethical decisions and the ability to respond to the hardships faced by others. This is the main issue that should be analyzed.

This topic is important because nowadays there are many countries in which many people have to face hunger, torture, or homelessness. Therefore, one should be more aware about the challenges faced by others. It is necessary to demonstrate witnessing the pain of others evokes empathy for other people.

More importantly, one should show that in this way, one can eventually bring improvements into the lives of other people. The discussion of these questions can be important for understanding the ways in which social problems can be addressed.

It is possible to say that an informed witness of such events can feel empathy for the victims and contribute to bringing social or political changes. This argument can be better illustrated if one looks at the works of a famous photographer James Nachtwey whose works affected the opinions of many policy-makers.

Overall, one can say that a photographer can sometimes throw light on the social, cultural, or historical environment in which a person lives. For instance, by looking at the images created by James Nachtwey, one can deduce that people are living in a country that can be affected by war and poverty.

Moreover, their clothes can indicate at their cultural or even religious background (Nachtwey unpaged). However, in most cases, photographers attempt to highlight the physical and emotional pain that produce catastrophic effects a person regardless of his/her cultural background, religion, or ethnicity.

For instance, one can mention his photographs of children stricken by poverty. They produce an indelible impression on viewers.

A person, who looks at the body as the site of pain, can assume the so-called power of gaze. In other words, this individual can perceive oneself not only as a spectator, but also as an agent who can assist the victims of injustice.

Yet, in order to achieve this goal, one should feel empathy for people suffering misfortunes due to some reasons (Sontag 7). The main problem is that many cases, people can look at the pictures of James Nachtwey without any consideration for the hardships of victims. This is the main difficulty that should not be overlooked.

It is possible to identify several positive and negative aspects of freezing trauma with the help of art or photography. First of all, photographs and video materials can evoke the compassion of viewers and they can take action to support the victims of various misfortunes.

For instance, they can donate money to support people affected natural calamities, wars, genocide, or poverty. Moreover, it is possible to bring improvements into the lives of people, provided that one can “communicate the reality of physical pain to those who are not themselves in pain” (Scarry 9).

Overall, the main benefit is that people can feel empathy for the victims. The main negative impact is that such images can simply turn into the objects of curiosity. So, photographers can violate the privacy or dignity of people without helping them in any way; this is the main pitfall that should be avoided. Thus, one should speak about the ethical aspects of looking at the images of pain.

On the whole, the perception of such images should provoke certain empathy; this is the main response that can be identified. However, one cannot say that they are inevitably culpable if they feel apathy.

One should remember that an individual may also struggle with some difficulties and emotional problems, and he/she choose indifference as a form of response. This is one of the arguments that can be put forward. Yet, there are more ethical reactions.

In particular, a person can raise awareness about other people about the problems faced by the victims of various social, military, or economic calamities. Furthermore, this individual should remember that this suffering is the result of injustice, intolerance, and indifference. This is one of the main points that can be distinguished.

In his talk, James Nachtwey mentions that his photography is not a mere mirror of various military conflicts or poverty (Nachtwey unpaged). More likely, these images can be viewed as a means of raising people’s awareness about the hardships that many people have to undergo.

More importantly, in this way, a person can bring improvements into the lives of people, especially if he/she shapes the attitudes of policy-makers. This is the main motives that prompted him to become him to become a photographer.

The main function of war photography is to highlight the atrocity and futility of war. Moreover, it should show that cultural, racial, or religious differences should not be used as the pretexts for the dehumanization of people.

Works Cited

Nachtwey, James. . TED, 21 Apr. 2005. Web.

Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985. Print.

Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Regarding the Pain of Others: images created by James Nachtwey." July 15, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/regarding-the-pain-of-others-images-created-by-james-nachtwey/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Regarding the Pain of Others: images created by James Nachtwey'. 15 July.

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