A documentarian's responsibility? Arturo Perez-Reverte




What happens when an award-winning harrowing face of a war photographer's past appears in his half-dead present when he is painting a mural about conflict for posterity and his own salvation?




That is the crux of The Painter of Battles by former photographer and current historical thriller novelist Arturo Perez-Reverte.

In Africa, some market women complain you are stealing their soul, when you "snap" their photo.

When you take a picture of a protester anywhere and release it, you are publicly documenting their activism. If the protest turns violent, your work could become evidence of them as criminals. Shining a light on victims, especially if grievous, can bring the prosecutors to your door as well.

Of course, now that everyone is a content provider and publisher, the stakes are much higher than just the realm of journalism.

In politically volatile and war-wracked places, a picture can become grease on the knife of butchers.

Photo compliments of Google search "Croatian soldier" by Corbis

In the book, the Croatian soldier (and a soldier in all societies is many times a victim on many levels), whose picture went on to grace magazine covers and win prestigious prizes, is recognized by the enemy, imprisoned and tortured, while his children are killed, and his wife is raped and decapitated, a very unsavory flap of the butterfly wings which can cause a Tokyo thunderstorm in chaos theory.

The painter is wrestling with his own nightmares, his way of dealing with war photography became mathematical, angular, to distill horrors into perfect compositions and harmonious colors, while his girlfriend who traipsed along, preferred to take pictures of the objects left behind in times of war, rather than the faces of the victims and perpetrators.

While he paints to make sense of it all in a different, more complete form, the Croatian soldier appears, on a self-mission to kill the man behind the click who did his life such harm.

What is a documentarian's responsibility to the one being documented? The tree falling in the forest ... if the photographer/youtuber/text messenger is not around, are the horrors real? Does recycled, packaged, horror and desolation cycle more of it?

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