"You can read about a hundred atrocities, hear about a thousand, but you only have to see one" -The..." />

The Power of the Visual


"You can read about a hundred atrocities, hear about a thousand, but you only have to see one" -The Counterfeit Traitor (this is a fantastic movie, a true story- if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it)


As a formerly active member of Amnesty International, a supporter of Human Rights Watch, and currently through the volunteer organizations I am now working with, I have become aware of many injustices that humans commit against other humans. However, watching this video really disturbed and angered me. It moved me to action.

The above video was brought to my attention by one of my followers on Facebook. It is about a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Bulgaria being attacked by a political party known as the VMRO who are alluded to as having connections with the Orthodox Church. The Witnesses were preparing for their celebration of the Memorial of Christ's Death "which takes place on the anniversary of the Last Supper" and is "the most important religious event of the year for Jehovah's Witnesses" (according to this BBC article and here is more information about the celebration and what it is from the Jehovah's Witnesses official website). According to an email I was able to obtain a copy of from witnesses in Bulgaria, the protest was "illegal because they [the VMRO] had not obtained permission from the city."

Now, personally, while I find a group of people being agressive towards another based on beliefs disturbing, I don't have a problem with peaceful protests, demonstrations, or picketing. The usefulness of such forms of speaking out and getting an important message across has been well demonstrated. While, I do not believe this is the most effective or dignified way for one group of people with a belief (particularly a religious one) to go against another (unless they're standing up for their rights in some way, not just a demonstration of "we hate you so much" like this was), and, even though I do find it disturbing and do not believe it dignified, I must state that it is their right to do so and it is an important right that has been defended even in cases where the demonstrating party is commonly recognized as truly despicable.   

The part where this video becomes truly angering for me, and moving, is where the demonstration not only turns to vandalism against a non-agressive party, but also turns violent. It's almost unbelievable when you watch it. The Jehovah's Witness men who block the doorway, preventing people from the VMRO group from entering the building, are clearly seen in the video. They do not have mean, dirty looks on their faces. They do not appear to threaten the people from the VMRO in any way. They also do not throw the first punch. In fact, I didn't notice them really fight back at all. Not only is the physical violence clearly one-sided, but also all the vandalism is too.  

When I reposted the video on my Facebook, one of the comments beneath it directed me to this press release about the incident. It turns out that "at the time of the attack, more than 100 people were inside the hall, including women, children, and elderly ones." If you notice, in the video the attackers throw small explosives into the building. If that is not terrorism, I don't know what is. To make matters worse, "the Witnesses had called the police immediately, but they were slow to respond." This suggests that this political group, which acts like a terrorist organization, apparently has some kind of sway over the police. Very disturbing. And the political group has unapologetically announced plans to stage another protest again while the Witnesses hold their annual special talk on this Sunday, May 1, where they threaten that "accidents like this may follow if the Jehovah's Witnesses are not banned."

Now I know all of that is a lot, and probably really heavy for a Thursday morning at work with a cup of coffee in your hand when all you wanted to do was read a blog post about photography, but stay with me.

I know that a lot of people who follow this blog want to be photographers themselves, or something along those lines. You've probably already invested in some kind of DSLR with HD video, or you own some kind of really fancy phone with all that capability for starters (don't laugh, those phones can do some amazing things!). So what I have to say is: Keep shooting. Keep making images of flowers, or HDR shots, models, your friends, or self-portraits, or whatever it is you do. These are the necessary photos of beautiful things that help you to find your place in the photography world and help build your confidence and experience. But, as my friend Matthew Leslie said; Don't forget to make images of the ugly things in life too. 

As you well know, it's not all roses on this Earth right now. Documenting and capturing that fact, like this video does, can help though. It can help startle away the complacency and helplessness we often feel by moving us to action. Even if you don't happen to be by a group that is physically attacking another, you can still shoot what there is around you. Who knows? Maybe just the images you make of all the potholes on your way to work will startle some people in your community into pulling together and doing something about it. Or, like it is hoped in the case above, maybe your images will move people to see a situation or group of people from a different point of view- perhaps causing them to do some research to dispell their prejudices and change their opinion. The point is, just don't be afraid to see the whole world around you, including the ugly stuff, and don't be afraid to say something about it. Your visual images/video may be just the thing that is needed to move people to action.

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