“Sebastian Meyer” Commentary: by Alec Stimac

Questions from Interview with Sebastian Meyer:

  1. Background on the one photo.
  2. Why did you choose to make it the cover of your book?
  3. Where is the line when placing oneself into another’s journey? Do you ever feel like a hinderance to the experiences of others?
  4. What does it mean to you to be a storyteller? What narrative are you trying to create?
  5. How should we respond to photographs of suffering?
  6. There is no war without photography. What does it mean to be a moral witness?
  7. How do you humanize these issues and ensure dehumanization does not occur when showing dead bodies? Human dignity? 
  8. Institutional identity vs. individual identity of subjects you photograph
  9. Who’s deaths and stories are still not being told? What is the community doing about that?
  10. How are you filling in the gaps of history? How are you adding to the narrative written by people of privilege? 
  11. Have you ever lost faith in your work? When did you know it was going to create change? What does it mean to you to see humanity at its worst?
  12. We do not suffer enough when we see those images….what would you say to that?
  13. Must everything be turned into a spectacle to be real? Is there hope within images of pain?

Answers:

“I had to figure out how was I going to visually tell this story.” 

“An inanimate object has a very poignant and moving story behind it. More visual, less writing. I took 100 photographs that day but choose this one because it is graphic, not bloody, but visually appealing. Glass catching light in a certain way. Looks like a painting more than anything else, appealing/pulled in by its attractiveness then it becomes less appealing.”

“The repercussions of publishing photographs of people in anyway, depends on the response you want to create.”

He was able to go find the family of the dead man he took a photo of, which is rare for photographers to be able to do. 

Not intent on change because that is not really his job as a journalist.  

“Audiences differ widely. All the parts of who you are inform your relation to that photograph. It is impossible for me to know the infinite numbers of audience members and how they will react.” 

“I have the story I am trying to tell. Your reaction is your responsibility.” 

“I am telling a story. Nonfiction story. Its subjective, what I include and exclude from the story.” 

“History is such a long arc; journalism is short history. I don’t think in terms of history, I think of the story. ” 

“Human beings love stories where you have the good guy and the bad guy. The reality is, a lot of times the bad guy was the good guy to somebody else or at a different time. And a lot of times the good guy is the bad guy in somebody else’s life. “

“We struggle with this [dilemma] as American citizens, how do we go to war somewhere else? Are we the good guys? Are we the bad guys? Are we somewhere in the middle? “

“Life is not as simple as that. Our greatest heroes were not great people. “

After covering war stories, he realized there is a performative nature to it. People want to perform for the camera. People model themselves off of images of war they have seen before to look like the hero. 

“Photos make you stop and linger over a moment. The photograph is a total fabrication. Every one of these pictures is taken at the very, very slowest at a 30th of a second. You do not see the world like that. You also don’t see the world 2 dimensionally. You are hearing, smelling, seeing at the same time. But this is what it looked like if you stopped. It needs to be seen as such. It allows you to stay on the visual while your brain does other things. “

You stop for the moment. 

 “We look more closely as a photographer. “

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