Large hangars and fuel storage, Tonopah Test Range, Nevada, distance 18 miles, 10:44 am. © Trevor Paglen

I’ve tried talking about Trevor Paglen’s expansive oeuvre before, with particular reference to his documenting of Black Sites (US extrajudicial prisons). I don’t think I did a great job, which is why I am happy to see Joerg and Asim both grapple with Paglen’s contributions.

Conscientious interviews Paglen

‘What I want out of art is “things that help us see who we are now” – and I mean this quite literally. I think of my visual work an exploration of political epistemology (i.e. the politics of how we know what we think we know?) filled with all the contradictions, dead ends, moments of revelation, and confusion that characterize our collective ability to comprehend the world around us in general.’

Asim Rafiqui delves deep: ‘Photographing The Unseen Or What Conventional Photojournalism Is Not Telling Us About Ourselves.

‘[Paglen’s photographs] remind us how most photojournalists prefer to pander in the simple, the obvious and the conventional, while never engaging in the complex and crucual. Our newspapers and photographers have, either out of convenience, laziness or sheer careerism, chosen to veil the GWAT behind beautifully rendered and largely distracting projects produced from the confines of embedded positions on the front line.’

Of course, war photography is only one aspect area of photojournalism, but the argument can be made that criticism of war photography has stopped short, cowered or just missed the point. If one accepts that as the case, then Jim Johnson‘s three posts about the changing conventions in war photography (here, here and here) are a good lesson in how to think and see war photography, which let’s admit it, is a genre America still dresses in wonder and heroic myth.