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tbej witnessed too maxi murders Video still from Alfredo Jaar’s “Sound of Silence,” 2006 ater especially built for the piece within the main gallery at DiverseWorks. As the video begins, lines of white letteringreminiscent of a field typewriter with a worn out ribbonsurface and fade across a black screen. kevin kevin kevin carter His name throbs in the dark, a silent incantation. Jaar recounts the photographer’s life story with terse, poetic lines of textnot images. they took many risks [we’re told of Carter and his fellow photographers] they witnessed too many murders they survived too many murders Carter’s photograph from the Sudan, we are not surprised to learn, elicited more than awards; it stirred outrage and accusations that this imageor rather the making of the imagewas itself hideous and predatory. “The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering,” wrote the St. “might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.” Two months after claiming his Pulitzer Prize in New York, Kevin Carter attached a hose to the exhaust pipe of his truck and committed suicide. Flash. A burst of light from nowhere shocks and momentarily blinds us in the theatre. As all eyes adjust, Carter’s controversial image fills the screen. Jaar’s text goes on to describe the property rights now in place around the famous image. The photograph belongs to Carter’s daughter but is managed by the immense Corbis archive: the reference number of this photograph is Corbis 0000295711-001 Corbis is owned by Bill Gates no one knows what happened to the child The auditorium at DiverseWorks was packed on March 12 to hear Alfredo Jaar and others discuss “The Sound of Silencer’ FotoFest co-director Wendy Watriss \(herself a former photojournaldent’s reflection on his work: It was his deep suspicion that there was no way actually to make a true, deep passage through the fierce experience of another people, another place, without being seriously touched yourself possibly even damaged. Real understanding probably had to be personally expensive in some important way. There is a senseespecially strong among photographers, I thinkthat images of pain are contraband, that without some personal price, and a high one at that, such pictures constitute a theft. Jaar told the Houston audience that he never intended to romanticize Kevin Carter’s life or death, yet his video seems to do just that. Carter’s suicide became the “personally expensive” price of having sought and capturedand then been publicly honored forimages of suffering. By his suicide, Carter restored the moral balance. He became a martyr, the victim of his own Promethean ambitions. He’s also the victim of our own desireswe, the image-consumers, who must have our “spies.” He died for our sin. \(Interestingly, among the short films nominated for an Academy Award this year was Dan Krauss’s The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club. The suicide of a successful photographer of war and famine seems to fulfill our expectation of the spy and the martyrwhat Sontag once referred to as “the artist as exemplary sufferer.” Carter seems on the way to becoming “The Sound of Silence” is powerful and provocative, but as Jaar’s own response to violence, it is also a telling deflection. People who saw Kevin Carter’s photograph in the New York Times wrote to him and to the newspaper asking, “What happened to the child?” Jaar’s video displaces the earnest answering of that question. Instead, it seeks to answer another question, “What happened to Kevin Carter?” \(and discussion in Houston after his video was shown, Jaar talked about photographing war in Rwanda, bringing his images back to New York, and discovering that no one was especially interested. “Is it a sign of indifference or are images the causes of indifference?” he asked. “Images come at us without 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 7, 2006