Sunday’s A-1 photo featured an American flag in a trash can outside of a home that was in the process of going through a short sale.
The article by reporter Jesse Bogan focused on foreclosures in the Briarchase subdivision in O’Fallon, Mo. The subdivision is representative of the crisis taking place across the country.
The image has drawn more than two dozen letters and comments from readers. Some strongly objected to the image and others saw it as symbolic of the crisis.
I have to say I didn’t like seeing a flag in the trash, which was why I photographed it. Part of me was pleased to have found the situation because I knew I could make an image that spoke about the foreclosure mess. I believe the photo does a good job of illustrating the seriousness of the story. For me, it is symbolic of the American dream of home ownership that has fallen to pieces for so many people who have been hit hard during this recession.
Others wanted to know if I had “staged” the photo or why I didn’t remove the flag when I saw it or after I was done photographing it.
As a journalist, I’m bound by ethics to only record and document reality. I never stage it or change it, even after I’m done photographing it. There are only rare exceptions when a journalist can and should intervene, like in a life-threatening situation. For example, if I were available to help save a drowning person I’d dive in after them.
Several people questioned my respect for veterans and all they have fought for over the years.
I have great respect for veterans and their service. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II, and my father served on the U.S.S Enterprise during Vietnam. While I never served in the military, I traveled to both Iraq and Afghanistan to cover American and NATO forces in those wars. On top of that, I’m named after my father’s best friend, David Gray Prentice, who was killed in Vietnam.
Others felt it was disrespectful to show a flag thrown in the trash. I understand why some people feel that. The American flag is iconic and has the ability to stir strong emotions. If the image I created of the flag in the trash moves you, then I have done my job. I would argue that apathy is a far greater threat to the flag and the ideals that it stands for.
Which, fucking WORD, okay? You know, we spend so much time avoiding getting het up about the actual suffering and misery around us, so much time convincing ourselves there’s nothing we can do about anything, and you know what happens? We wind up freaking out over a flag picture. Because that’s all that’s left to freak out about. A flag picture. What kind of mustard the president likes. Who the neighbors are allowed to marry. That’s what gets the readers of a newspaper all in a tizzy.
Because, you know, people are basically good. We do have energy we need to expend in considering things that are not our own navels. We have impulses to do good and we have compassion and we have an urge to alleviate suffering. And so what those who profit from the opposite of all of that have to do is convince us to direct those impulses, that compassion, all that energy, at shit that makes no difference whatsoever. You end up with letters to the paper about how a flag in the trash is disrespectful to veterans, because it’s throwing the flag for which they fought away.
You know what else is disrespectful to veterans? Turning the entire country for which they fought into a big trash heap and throwing everything that makes it great onto that great big pile of shit. Letting a bunch of moneyed monsters run roughshod over people’s lives, take their homes, cheat their children and starve their grandparents. Turning homeownership into just another way to break people. Seventeen foreclosures in one subdivision, is what that story was about, but hey, let’s get mad at the photographer for taking a picture that, it just so happens, perfectly illustrates exactly how screwed we are right now as a country. Let’s not get mad at the screwing, or who’s doing it, or the form it’s taking. Let’s write the photographer an angry note about how we’re pissed that he’s putting it in the paper.
Because that’ll help.