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Guggenheim Photo Exhibition Outrage 2020

| November 12, 2020 | 0 Comments
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In today’s post-9/11 media environment, it’s difficult to escape images of human suffering as a result of acts of terrorism and their aftermath. Such images are often challenging to view, evoking powerfully emotional responses from many people – especially the survivors, and the families of the victims. Sadly, though, we are all-too familiar with such graphic depictions of misery and loss. The media’s appetite for emotional agony remains insatiable, with images of terrorism proving bitterly iconic and definitive of our times.

However, public outcry can be a formidable opponent as photojournalist Clemente Bernad and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao discovered recently when plans to exhibit her photographs of the Spanish ETA conflict in northern Spain came under intense scrutiny by families of those killed by the Basque separatist movement. Intended to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Museum, the photos have been branded as an affront to the victims’ families, and have been described by some as an ‘apology for terrorism’.

Guggenheim Photo Exhibition Outrage

The monochromatic images themselves, part of a series entitled ‘Basque Chronicles‘, depict many aspects of terrorism that rarely make the evening news, including a man weeping over the casket of an ETA member at his funeral. The Spanish conservative Popular Party (PP) and the Association of Victims of Terrorism in the Basque Country have demanded their withdrawal. Speaking with the media, a spokesperson for the AVTBC said that “This show does not condemn terrorist violence.” However, despite the strong reactions to the exhibition, the question remains; should photojournalism condemn terrorist violence?

Does portraying a rarely-seen side to the conflict pose a dilemma for those that actually oppose terrorist violence? Or does it merely present an alternative to the typical media stereotyping of what defines terrorism? I’m sure that Bernad is not a supporter of terrorists or their causes, yet her work manages to make a powerful statement about the difficulty of the terrorists’ humanity. Impartiality in matters such as this is certainly difficult; however, is it the responsibility of photojournalists and their work to side with the majority opinion, or to tell the truth?

Clemente Bernad and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao discovered recently when plans to exhibit her photographs of the Spanish ETA conflict in northern Spain came under intense scrutiny by families of those killed by the Basque separatist movement.

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