The story behind a photograph by Carlos Saladen-Vargas

Carlos Saladen-Vargas, Fantasma, 2010

Carlos Saladen-Vargas, Fantasma, 2010

“Back in 2010 we were staying in Choroni, a beautiful town in the coast of Venezuela, it was around 8pm and we were getting ready to go out for dinner, I was laying on the bed, chilling, had my Hasselblad on my hands and there was some random commercial playing on the tv. I noticed the lighting and contrast between the lamp and the tv and decided to take one photo, just for the sake of it, you know, another wasted frame, who cares… As soon as I pressed the shutter I had a very weird feeling, a bit scary, I though I have seen something like a face or a ghost on the television, it was so fast that I was not sure I have seen it or it was just my mind playing games… Anyway I waited (even forgot about it) for the processing of the film, a few months later, I was surprised when I saw the negative. So what if someone asks me if I believe in ghosts? Or what about photography’s ability to capture the supernatural? Well, not easy to answer anymore…”

twitter conversation @rovanwil @duckrabbitblog @PhotoSoupORG @JohnWMacPherson #regardingthepainofothers

@rovanwil: does art as a social commentary stop being justifiable when money is being made? discuss.

@duckrabbitblog: Easy answer. No.

But if you ask me what if someone took a picture of one of my children dying and then sold it as a limited edition print

I would say they are scum.

And by doing so they destroy trust. That’s the currency that fuels a lot of important social commentary. And art.

@rovanwil: totally agree. maybe problem lies partly within journalism as an artform, things get mixed up

@duckrabbitblog: Maybe. I do think when you start seeing people as objects that can be sold you’ve lost the plot.

And I think that goes both for journalism and art.

: so what about ‘artists’ photographing their parents going thru terminal illness? Those pics end up for sale in a gallery too

there seems to be some kind of validation coming from how subject and photographer are particularly related

same with children photos, its ok(ish) to expose your own children but not others that you are not directly related to

so the problem seems to be not the image but who presents it…

@duckrabbitblog: As limited edition prints? I’d find that quite hard to get my head round, But that’s a very different example.

Well that’s a big thing. A relationship of trust between people. Also some equality. Nahr is taking advantage (imo).

Kids need protecting from parents too sometimes. We don’t always act in their best interest,

: yes or as unique artworks, but normally the images are on the tender and emotional side…

Big difference between ‘stranger’ selling pics of dying, and decision made by ‘family’ to share such moments.

@duckrabbitblog: right. So there’s a different kind of engagement.

: at the end the problem (if there is any at all) is to get some financial reward out of pain/suffering/death be it your own

or as Susan Sontag said (regarding) ‘the pain of others’

Disagree. I’ve had to confront smwht similar (personally) & decision was about ‘story’ & legacy for my son.

 have met artists that have done it+respect their process, it can help others going thru similar situation

: For sure. But that is not what is going on with Nahr’s pics.

Take this Haitian woman two days trapped. Legs will be amputated when she is rescued.

Dominic Nahr. 2010

She prob thought she was dying while Nahr photographs her. Totally helpless. Now she’s a limited edition fine art print.

 everything needs to be analysed on a case by case basis but it’s important to challenge the ‘anything goes’ paradigm

: That makes sense to me.