→ December 2005 Contents → Column
The Quiet Anger of Paul Fusco
After seeing Bitter Fruit, Magnum photographer Paul Fusco's portfolio of funerals of American soldiers who died in Iraq, I was moved to these thoughts.
There are times when a still photo is so much more powerful than a moving image. With a strong still, a set or suite, as here with Paul Fusco's photos of those who suffer at home because of the war in Iraq, his somber and quiet images allow us to peer inside the souls of the people he depicts as they struggle with loss.
As viewers of stills, we only look as long as we want, and then turn away when we feel the onset of tears. With moving images, which are also often powerful, they are usually past us before their final impact. With still photos we have the option of lingering or turning away, depending how it moves us.
Kudos to Paul Fusco for sharing these moments with us through his powerful, yet quiet and affecting images. They should be required viewing for all who believe the war is just.
More than a week after writing these words, I spoke with Paul Fusco, and in speaking with him, I could easily detect his quiet anger about America, the country he loves, and what he calls, "the indecent war in Iraq." Speaking with dignity, there were times I could barely hear him during a brief phone interview.
"I believe in democracy and freedom," he says. "I hate what this administration is doing to our country. It intentionally never tells the truth. That is unacceptable."
Paul Fusco is a veteran photographer of war and grief and social issues. He served in the Army Signal Corps as a photographer during the Korean War from 1951 to 1953. No stranger to life on the edge, he has chronicled major social issues such as AIDS, homelessness, welfare, and the horrific results of Chernobyl.
His current portfolio is as far from combat as possible, but it is all about war and how war destroys lives. Showing the results of combat puts the lie to those commercials, which practically beg the young to enlist, the many patriotic posters we see everywhere, and the recruiting officers patrolling the streets and byways of our country. Fusco shows what he calls "the end cost of war," that time when our young come home, when families bury them, and when they weep for their loss. And he is very successful in doing it.
Quietly, very quietly, but with the power of his convictions, Fusco spoke to me of what he calls "the veil of secrecy" put forward by our government, especially its lies about WMD in the run-up to the war. Of equal importance, though, is what he, and any self-respecting journalist, must recognize is an attempt at "censorship by the government" to keep the press away from, among other things, funerals at home for those who died in Iraq. To beat that cover-up, he decided to attend as many funerals as he could, something that George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld want to cloak in the shadow of obscurity.
At every funeral but one, and Fusco attended as many as 26, the military in attendance tried to turn him away. Only one family allowed him access, and to shoot pictures without a fuss. But he managed to get inside the other funerals and once inside those in charge did not stop him, probably because, as he says, "they did not want to make a scene."
He only saw local press, but never any national media. He wants to make clear that he does not blame the journalists for not covering these events. They work for editors and publishers. It is their fault rather than the reporters' that we are not witness to the grief at home that goes unseen and largely uncovered.
Amen to that.
You can view "Bitter Fruit," Paul Fusco's copyrighted photo essay, online at http://www.abitterfruit.com.
© Ron Steinman
Back to December 2005 Contents