One day on a Parisian street in 1839, on a boulevard named ‘Boulevard du Temple’ (Boulevard du Temple) , a French artist named ‘Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre’ portrayed reality into what was to be known as the photograph for the first time in history.
What makes this picture special was not the buildings, the roads, or the trees that were represented into an objected called a "photograph" fir the first time. Instead of being represented in words, dreams, imagination, painting, or sculpture, the excitement of this picture is the discovery that after the photograph was taken, the small dots on the bottom of the picture were the silhouettes of people. An interesting issue is that this picture is the only small picture that could change the idea of humans towards the Earth and themselves.
Such motive brought photojournalists like them to different terrible environments and situations: natural disasters, wars, state threats and persecutions. Limited equipments were against the taste of most photographers who only liked to see beauty and the comments from their own editors. The differing viewpoints of the readers and the bias on the part of the photographers themselves also played a role. All the complexities, however, came down to flock on the question of "What is truth?" Perhaps, the professionalism that is found in photojournalism may make it the only science in photography that is the best proof of the potential of the camera, the photographer themselves, and the audience.
With this implication, the photograph represents human beings as a sophisticated individual that presides over all things in the natural world and in their own lives. It reflects the ordering of social relationships and various relationship of powers: those that are visible and otherwise. But these things are reflected on the other side as the perception of those who are the "viewers". Thus in this process the world becomes what Hegel once said that humanity lives in its on life. We pick things up to look, we question the things that we see, and we can make varying arguments about these things. It shows the individuality in the humanity that is being thought.
From this point, Martin Heidegger said that for human lives 'being is more important than living'. In other words, nature and identity of human beings are expressed in thoughts and interpretations. We cannot exist in this world without interpretation and definition. Therefore, taking a photograph is like painting to a picture. In this process, there is the painter, the photographer, and the audience, and all of them are interpreting and being made to interpret these pictures. Similarly, Michel Foucault tries to see and interpret the picture to a great length that is hard to understand on an old painting from 1656 made by Diego Velazquez with the title 'Las Meninas'.
What do we get from looking at a picture for its interpretation, whether in painting or photograph? The important thing is not the intention or the will of the painter. It is not the truth of what the painter intends for the viewer to see or to look at, but it is up to us as the viewers to interpret and see things when we 'stare' at the picture. The truth and the meaning that represents the truth can be completely separate. Nothing poses an obstacle to expression. It represents the purest form of humanity. "The picture should be able to show itself outside of the frame."
From Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia “Las Meninas”
Once we look at art, then we look back at ourselves. When we look at the events in Thailand in the middle of the confusion within in-resolvable clashes and conflicts that are waiting to be boiled over, along with the conflict and violence that have prolonged and lasted for more than 7 years in the south. The conflict has resulted in more than four thousand five hundred people deaths and another seven thousands persons being injured, yet there are reflections to which we can see that these violent events can help us to expand our thoughts, to see and know our true identity and the true identity of our society.
We have to admit that, amidst despair, one of the thing that has been created and developed from the southern conflict is the creation of a media space to reflects something from the 'insiders' who fight against violence and try to survive in their own way of life, and the 'outsiders' who try to see and understand the violence that has happened. Replication of these reflections through media space gives many meaning that we do and do not know. Key symbols in these areas are the photographs taken by photojournalists, which have both the vision and invisible things appearing, waiting for us, the viewers, to see and interpret.
Like any other place on earth, the news images of the deep south exist under the waves of cruel, cruel violence, similar to the image that wrecked the hearts of the world in 1972 when a Vietnamese girl ran crying with a naked body from a village among American soldiers who were the invaders in the Vietnam War. The important thing was that at this point, the space had been opened. The news image was broadcasted, and interpretations started. The ensuing result was that there was a creation of the definition and the struggle for the definition of the conflict. On the other hand, the expression of identity and the way of life of the people in a society living amidst violence itself also has spaces existing from the spot where the picture took place. There are locations, symbols, and ways of life in the photograph which are meaningfully displayed.
The producer of these photographs are the Deep South Photographers network. No one seems to know that the Deep South Photographers appear to be the most experienced war photographers among war photojournalists in the country as present due to necessity. Their pictures appear in the media all over the world, not limited only to the media in Thailand. Many of their pictures have been based in the international photojournalism circle. AP, AFP, Reuters, and other news agencies around the world have reproduced their photographs though modern media.
Nick Ut / The Associated Press, June 8, 1972
From Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia “Phan Thị Kim Phúc”
After 7 years of violence, what have these photographs from the deep south told or given meanings for us to see and interpret? It seems that pictures of key events in other places on Earth have given new meanings to us. Deep South Photographers have also created a large number of sophisticated photographs. Let's look at the picture of the sign near the entrance to the Tanah Putih village in Bannang Sata District, Yala Province, which was taken in 2005. This sign would have no meaning if there were no letters in red being sprayed over it. The letters were in the Melayu language which read "Patani Merdeka" or "Liberation of Patani". The picture becomes more meaningful when the Malay man in the sarong who was riding his motorcycle with a little boy in the pillion seat look at it. He might have stopped the motorcycle to look at the sign with interest, but the puzzle here is that the picture did not allow us to see his eyes, which could be showing bepuzzlement, fear, or satisfaction.
What is more interesting is that the little boy on the motorcycle had a rather uncomfortable look in his eyes and in the way he acted. He might not know the meaning of what was happening around him. He might not know why the grown-ups had to stop the motorcycle. He might be wondering what the photographer was doing in front of him, or he might not be happy that a stranger was looking into his private space. If we looked at this man as the center of the picture, we would see that he was being a witness and an observer to the fight between the two identities in the conflict in the deep south: the identity of the Thai state vs. that of the insurgents. By whatever name we call them, this struggle is not yet over and will continue as long as the doubts and the puzzle in this photograph are still unsolved.
Muhammad Ayub Pathan, Deep South Watch (2005)
Another picture is from the aftermath of the massacre at Al-Furqan Mosque in Ai-Payer Village, Chuab Sub-District, Cho-airong District, Narathiwat Province, on 8 June 2009. The cruelty from the violence of the killing was reflected in the picture of a bullet hole in a glass panel of the Mosque. The impressive point of this photograph is the doubtful eyes of a Muslim Malay boy on the massacre in the Mosque that was looking through the cracked glass and the bullet hole. When looking back through the perspective of the viewer, as external observer, we may be able to see the breaks, the pain, and the cracks that are in the heart of this little boy which reflects the community that is being a victim of the violence. This boy might be seeing something that we, as the observers, could not see. It did not appear in the picture, but what is the truth? Who fired all the bullets? From this scene of pain, the boy might have the answer in his heart but he could not say it out loud. The bitter truth is that even today, no one knows the answer, even the state itself.
Mahamasabree Jehloh, Southern Peace Media (2009)
It has been more than 170 years since the first day of photography of mankind. Today represents a lengthy period of development of photojournalism in the mass media. Meanwhile, we have passed 7 years of the unrest in the deep south. During this time of prolonged violence, we have hundreds or thousands of pictures that record the events and lives. The questions remain the same for the photographer: "How can we help humanity to see itself?", "How should they see it?", and "What is the truth?". Images are reflected through the lenses of these photographers, waiting for us as human beings to understand and interpret their meaning, reflecting the lives of people and the society. It is the proof of the capacity of the camera, the photographers, and of human beings as viewers of these pictures.
First published in WeWatchBook "In Between; Restive South" Deep South Photojournalism Issue.