Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Words No Longer Cut It - Only Images Can Communicate Now

FACT IS: we all live insular lives. Whether it be through poverty or ill health that confines us to a particular location; a career that demands most of our time; or our selfish choices not to become involved in the societies we inhabit, we all accept our blinkered vision and engage meekly in our familiar routines. Most of us do not have the inclination to consider the future - or how it might be changed. We leave those considerations to those we have elected, in the hope that they will make the best choices on our behalf.

We don't pay attention because, through our taxes, we employ others to do that for us - and, in any case, we simply don't have the time...

Unfortunately, there is a significant time-lapse between taking major decisions and their subsequent effects. It takes time for change to overcome established momentum - and further time, after the change becomes apparent, for those involved to resist or adapt.

Change drips. The drip becomes a trickle; the trickle becomes a flow; and then the flow becomes a flood. Woe betide anyone who stands in its way...

I'm not talking immigration here, I'm just musing upon change in general. It is easy to cast immigration as the sole agent for all the changes our societies have endured over the last twenty years; but the fact is that many were already in full flow as the result of previous decisions. Immigration simply provided them with further momentum - and a fertile soil for their subsequent consequences.

If you are going to ban the ability of the public to hear the likes of Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein's military wing speaking to the Press in fear of their attracting more supporters: you are basically confirming your own fear that their arguments hold some weight and that you have no solution to offer. That drip then trickled to become the flow of denying the right of anyone to say anything that the political classes deemed inappropriate - for fear of undermining their decisions - and then became the flood of secret deals and treaty signing made possible by communicating in sound-bites and PR constructed comments and speeches.

Parliament's front door was successfully locked and bolted against the masses - whilst its back door, and the UK's borders, were fully opened for business.

It is no coincidence that our parliamentarians consider themselves as having been elected to the board of UK Limited - but it is telling that few holding that prestigious office could find anything like a comparable paid position in any of the real businesses that their pretentious egos insist they serve.

(I don't include bogus charities, lobbying firms, PR companies or quangos, of course. Nor do I banks.).

The term 'free speech' actually amuses me. Not because the political classes shudder whenever they hear the term; but because, for all their attempts to restrain it - they can only do so if what is said is in English. If you are Polish, French, German, Czech, Arab, Pakistani, Russian - or of any other nationality adopting the UK as your new or temporary home: the law, effectively, does not apply to you. You need only speak or write in your familial tongue to be free of the restraints imposed upon us natives.

That tells you all you need to know about whose side our political masters are firmly on. You don't need to know that none have taken the time to learn Arabic - or even read the Quran. Why should they? They do not live in neighbourhoods where English is rarely spoken, or listened to the full-on prejudices of foreigners communicating with each other in their native languages.

So when is Arabic going to be taught as part of the UK school curriculum? You know, just so as to permit the next generation to fully understand what is actually going on (and young Muslims might be able to actually read their Quran). Who knows, us natives might then be fully equipped to identify that 'suspicious activity' that the police are now so keen we should all report.

No time soon, I guess. It's far easier to ignore the problem, in the hope it will go way, rather than addressing the inevitable consequences.

Language, huh? It's the one thing that cannot be photographed - and the one thing that cannot be seen.

It presents a real problem for photojournalists - and a problem for reporters too. How do you encapsulate that contrast in a written article or an image?

How do you communicate that 'feeling' of a once friendly high-street or neighbourhood, suddenly becoming an alien land made up of similar coloured races; but made impenetrable through the chatter of different foreign tongues?

Video, I guess...

But who the hell is going to watch it, if they can't fully understand what is being said?

To be true to the genre, you could not cut, add to, or edit the footage in any way (so sub-titles are a no-no).

I'm still trying to work that one out...

It takes time for change to announce itself; time for it to be recognised by the older generation; and time for society's elders to observe and compare. For the younger generation, of course, change is merely a concept - devoid of any personal context - that they will only notice when they grow up. (No mate, it's actually the Mars bars that have changed in size - it has nothing to do with your hands).

All floods happen when youngsters fail to pay attention to their elders, and choose to ignore the cracks in their own dyke walls.

I often scowl at young, aspiring photojournalists, packing their bags soon after leaving Uni. to board the next flight to a war zone in order to 'make their mark.' The first rule of journalism is to report on what you actually know about - not to blindly follow in the steps of others. Why would you copy-write an obituary, when you could be recording what is new?

Why would you use your expensive skills to document a foreign war-torn society, when you could so easily document the growing tensions in your own?

Familiarity, like they say, breeds contempt - but that is the very problem to which photojournalism is addressed: presenting the familiar in such a way as to provoke a new understanding or rethink about how its recognition is normally seen and construed.

My advice? Don't leave the UK. There has never been so much change to document - not only for prosperity, but for those youngsters now growing-up.

Get out onto the streets; get into your neighbourhoods; feel the atmosphere and, from a distance, capture the looks.

Educate others how to read our genre, free of all language barriers.

Take a trip to Southend, Westcliff, Gloucester (there are far too many others to mention) - and just hang around in the High Streets. Breathe. Listen. Observe. Record.

It ain't pretty. You won't get it published; but change is flooding and growing now...

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