The Disaster as Fine Art


General Photography

Case 1: A German man kills another man, who, as it seems, consented to being killed, and eats him. (story) A photographer takes photos inside the killer’s house, and it looks like fine art.

Case 2: A war has been going on for decades; a photographer, working in the country of the war, takes a photo of the corpse of a dead fighter and sells large versions of the photo to art galleries. (background/interview)

Case 3: A hurricane devastates large areas of a country, killing and displacing thousands of people. A fine art photographer travels to the area and takes photos, which end up in art galleries. (see this entry)

I feel a bit uneasy about each of these cases (and there are many more), for a variety of reasons. I think what bothers me most about this all is that I don’t even really know what it is that causes me being confused. It’s maybe easiest for me to tell in the case of the dead Taliban. I think putting the photo in a museum is simply obscene (in the most basic sense of this word that, unfortately, has been abused all-too-often by bigots and fundamentalists).

Maybe it comes down to asking the question whether it is appropriate to make other peoples’ misfortunes our object of aesthetic admiration. Am I the only one who is somewhat confused by this?

(Please note I’m not arguing that photos like these should not be taken…)