I took one of my photography classes to meet Simon Norfolk this week at the Tate Modern and it reminded me of something that Fred Ritchin says in 'In our own image'. Early in the book he doubts that
"photographs could again be perceived as powerfully as they were during the Vietnam war when they helped instigate and fuel furious debate" .
Simon's talks are delivered with a brutal and uncompromising honesty. If you get chance to visit the exhibition then do as the images are beautiful artefacts to behold in their own right, but if you don't listen to his story along the way then you'll miss out on a much richer appreciation. He's an impassioned story teller and as you listen, the images are loaded with a great deal of political freight, as he says; 'beauty just happens to be a convenient and effective vehicle'.
Although the Ritchin's quote is referring to the erosion of trust in analogue's trace qualities brought about by the digital, it ultimately brings into question the photographer's status as credible witness. It's clear that what Norfolk has done by stepping aside from what he describes as the 'cracked sewer-pipe of modern photo journalism' is to establish himself as a credible witness whose provocative, slow-journalistic story telling provides a great deal of fuel for the furious .
Addendum: Don't miss David Campbell's post here.