Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Bang-Bang Club

"I hope I die with the best fucking news pic of all time on my neg. - it wouldn't be worth it otherwise..."
The passage was taken from Ken Oosterbroek's diary dated May 20th, 1988. He was a South African photojournalist who was killed on a clash during the last days of the apartheid era. He was a member of the so-called Bang-Bang Club.

I have just finished reading the book entitled after the group's name 'The Bang Bang Club'. I heard and interested about the book a couple years ago but just couldn't find one then. Until recently a senior writer and journalist, Nina Masjhur, kindly lent me this book, when during a conversation I mentioned about it and she in coincidence has the book.

The book tells us about the political history of South Africa during the heat when apartheid was falling apart and how the local photographers and journalists covered and reported the story. It concentrates on a group of photojournalists who hung out together, trusted each other and risked their lives to compete getting the best picture of the bloody conflict, The Bang-Bang.

There are four of them who bonded most closely in the group, Ken Oosterbroek, Kevin Carter, Joao Silva and Greg Marinovich. With Kevin as the most famous of all because of his picture of a collapsed starving child stalked by a vulture, the famed picture which won him a Pulitzer prize. Moreover it was a story of young and ambitious photojournalists who saw the war affecting their career, their country and their personal lives. Simply the bullets, blood and war tore them apart as a journalist and as an individual.

Kevin Carter's famous image that won him Pulitzer Prize in 1994

A quote taken from the book said:
"I have got to a point where the pain of life overrides the joy to the point that joy does not exist... I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain... and I am haunted by the loss of my friend Ken"
Kevin Carter
Kevin said this after the death of his colleague and best friend Ken Oosterbroek. A death that deeply affected Kevin and the other two. So deep and also mixed with the other problems he had, Kevin took his own life soon after he received his Pulitzer prize.

A wounded Greg Marinovich is assisted by photojournalist
James Nachtwey, while Joao Silva takes pictures of Gary Bernard
and an officer from the National Peacekeeping Force as they
carry the fatally wounded Ken Oosterbroek in the background,
18 April 1994, Thokoza township. Photo by Juda Ngwenya/Reuters.

Written by the two surviving members of group, Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva, it gives us an insight feeling in becoming a photojournalist furthermore a war-photographer. Telling us it is just not a simple and exciting job to do, this is a serious job and very important.

That they are not just taking pictures, instead they are documenting history for those who can't be there.

It brought me more respect to the profession.


sumaryanto bronto said...

BUKU dari mana nih??
boleh lah gw pinjem........
sekalian belajar gramar
:D :D :D

Karolus Naga said...

once I read that Kevin Carter's shoot became one of the 100 greatest photograph that change the world by LIFE mag ...

Nekk~ said...

I REFUSE to read your review. Cause, I need to read da book by myself first. Neeway, I love how you do it

Kuli Tinta said...

Kevin Carter's photograph is said to be the one of the greatest photo ever, but it is also the reason why he killed himself. He waited for almost an hour beside the child to wait for the exact moment to capture it, and the moment came when the bird was lurking the child, as if the child was its dinner. After he took the photo, then he drove away from the scene. He won the pulitzer prize because of the message in this photo, which is the humanitarian issue, but then he killed himself because he couldn't live knowing that he didn't do anything to the child while he waited for the right moment, but also he drove away after taking the photo.

This photo raised a lot issue in photojournalism, whether the photojournalists should interact with their object, or simply stand there as bearing witness. Well, it's your call as photographers.

Rony Zakaria said...

@Kuli Tinta

Actually he sat down at tree after watching the vulture went away. The shot actually taken just meters from a food center.

I won't say that Kevin was horrible by not doing anything to the child but I think the world and its people just too harsh with him and eventually he became the child in the photo stalked by the vultures, people who judged him...

Kuli Tinta said...

Well I'm not saying that I judged him. It is a decision every photographer had to made, on any occasion. Maybe the burden on Kevin Carter was just too much. Personally I don't know what I should do if I was in a situation like that, honestly I'm really interested in covering such humanitarian issues, but I don't what I'll do once I'm there. And yeah the case of Kevin Carter has become a long discussion, and an interesting one as well.
As photographer, I just wanted to see what the others' opinion on this one, because it has become a long debate on whether Kevin Carter has done the right or wrong decision, but I guess it's not a matter of right or wrong, it's just a matter personal conscience.
And Rony, you have such an interesting blog, and you travel a lot. How do you start as a photojournalist in Indonesia? I'm thinking of going back to Indonesia after my degree and I'd love to explore Indonesia with my lenses. just out of curiosity.

Rony Zakaria said... Don't get me wrong. I didn't say you judged him.

I was just saying that it was unfair that the whole world seems questioned him with ethical questions where they're all didn't experience the things he's having.

Anyway, I don't call my self a photojournalist. Just a person with a camera.

Kuli Tinta said...

I guess that's how the world works, and I'm not trying to be a cynic in here, hehe.

I discussed Kevin Carter's photograph in one of my classes, and we compared with another photojournalist in India, she is based in London but work in India, I forgot her name. Well, she refused to photograph a murder in India just because the murder was "set up" to promote the Guerilla fighter while the other photographers took the photo. She was fired from the publication she worked for. How's that for judging a conscience?

Rony Zakaria said...

@Kuli Tinta
I think that being professional and having a conscience is two different thing and sometimes perhaps you have to choose one instead the other.

Every choices have consequences. But I do think that the Indian photographer case is a totally different situation than Kevin's.

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