Arash HANAEI (*1978 in Tehran, IRAN)
Lives and works in Paris (France) und Tehran (Iran)
“Respect for the truth, the preservation of human dignity and providing information to the public in a truthful manner are the highest imperatives of the press.” – the fundamental principles of journalism in Germany are stated in Article 1 of the German Press Code. This is why pictures of killings, torture and executions are rarely distributed by state media channels in Germany. The need to fully inform the public about important events is sometimes in conflict with other values, such as the preservation of human dignity. But what information and pictures may and must be shown? To what extent is publication mandatory in order to allow individuals to independently form opinions? Arash Hanaei was born in Iran. His work Death of a Photographer is a work that addresses these issues. It consists of a five-page transcript printed on slightly glossy metallic photo paper. The reduction in the work’s form stands in stark contrast to its shocking content. Soldiers in active deployment are clearly firing their weapons at human targets. They talk at the same time, using aliases to address each other. They assume the people they are attacking are a group of armed insurgents without apparently having any indication that this might actually be the case.
The cynical comments of the soldiers bring to mind a perverted computer game. Yet the attack is real. In a Baghdad air raid on 12 July, 2007, several people were targeted and killed by two American helicopter crews, among them two Reuters Iraqi war correspondents. The soldiers did not recognize them as journalists from a distance. In military jargon, the euphemistic term “collateral damage” is used. The dramatic video footage was first made public by WikiLeaks. It unleashed worldwide outrage. The American soldier Bradley Manning was arrested as a suspected informant and subsequently found guilty of disclosing state secrets. In a time of “alternative facts” in which journalistic work is increasingly being discredited and fake news reports spread rapidly via social media, it is important to be vigilant. Arash Hanaei has created in this sense a highly disturbing work. He does not show the “leaked” video footage of the shooting but rather makes the linguistic record fully accessible. Death of a Photographer is both a contemporary document and an aesthetic approach. The shock-inducing effect is consciously used to rouse the viewer and, in the best case, to enlighten them.
Text: Ingo Clauß