Interesting Times and Photography

Listening to BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week this morning I heard Pamela Yates talk about her new film Granito, which sounds like a superb documentary film. But I am attracted by Yates use of granito (tiny grain of sand,) which she says is a “Mayan concept that each of us have our small bit to contribute to positive social change.”

I was reminded of the images coming out of Libya and Egypt. The Libya images are short films (as I write the still images are yet to appear) on our 24 hour news showing what has been, usually with a presenter telling us what is going on – thus anchoring the meaning for us. We see a ruined building and are told by the talking head that it is either a command center or an administrative building in a fleeting moment the image has gone. We have a sense of history but sometime that taste that is left is more about the presenters career.

Egyptian anti-government protesters sleep between the tires of a military tank stationed on Tahrir (Liberation) Square, which for the past two weeks has been the center of a sit-in protest by thousands of Egyptians demanding the government step down from power. Protesters created a human shield and barricades to fend off pro-Mubarak supporters from getting into the square and to prevent the military from an overnight attack to clear the square from the protesters. Photo by Laura El-Tantawy

Going onto Egypt were we, in the West, are now mainly left with still images. I am drawn to Laura El-Tantawy pictures from 11th Feb in Cairo’s Tahrir Square seem on David Allan Harvey’s Burn Magazine site. Her images were also discussed in an Open-i webinar last Sunday, 20th March (if you want access to Open-i I am happy to invite you, the rest of the images from the webinar are also here.)

The symbolism of this photograph is extremely powerful, the man is putting his life, his body on the line for social change, the man to our right is wrapped in the Egyptian flag. They are both bloody and show us that change is hard…

On looking from this image (to check the caption etc), I found many images of tanks and people sleeping on them. These pictures tend to be straight forward – we see the men who sleep on the tank.

But Laura El-Tantawy success here is in making her images metaphoric – this could be us – but these men are Egypt. They are using their granito.

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