The Wild West: Bias and Myth in Media (cont'd)

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A follow-up to my earlier post on the MoMA "Into the Sunset" exhibit ...

My second thought on the subject: While it's true that any photo or story is only a piece of a far more complex puzzle, it's also true that photographers (and writers) make choices about which puzzle pieces they capture and share with the rest of us. Every day. On every subject. But are they intentionally skewing our vision, or trying to reinforce a fantasy image? Well... sometimes. A travel magazine generally doesn't want to see the slums of a Caribbean island vacation spot. The assignment is to talk about and show the pretty places. And the old newspaper adage "if it bleeds, it leads," didn't crop up out of nowhere. In addition, we all view the world through our own particular lenses. And there are certainly photographers and writers who have an axe to grind, or an agenda to push. 

However. I would argue that the bias the vast majority of professional photographers and writers have is not toward one take on a story or another. It's toward a compelling story, period. The photo that's dramatic. The unexpected story that cuts against the grain. The moment that stops people in their tracks and makes them re-think their assumptions. The one photo that tells a story better than 1,000 words. 

We know we can't tell the entire story in one article, or one photo. So we try to find something compelling that represents an important aspect of the story. And, hopefully, we get to tell other pieces, in other stories and images. So that over time, we can paint a fuller picture of a complex milieu. Are our efforts flawed, even when we try our best to tell a story representational of the "truth"? Of course. We have to live with that. Truth is elusive. So we tell stories. And we hope, on our best days, that we provide enough pieces of the puzzle for people to: a) get some sense of what the overall image is, and b) realize that it's a complex image that goes beyond any easy categorization or answer. 



 
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Lane Wallace is a pilot and adventure writer. Her latest book is Surviving Uncertainty: Taking a Hero's Journey.

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