Harper's Magazine / April 2007
LETTERS: All Riots Reserved [PDF]

I am a great fan of Susan Meiselas, a contributor with Joy Garnett to February's portfolio, "On the Rights of Molotov Man," but she, like many photojournalists, denies a crucial element of her work, to its detriment: namely, the photograph as a visual communicator. An image speaks to its viewer in a different way than a word to its reader. The "psychological gesture," a term coined by the director Michael Chekhov, is a physical pose that personifies the struggle or action of its character and conveys a feeling rather than a story. Pictures are not stories, and to attempt to keep them in the cage of storytelling is to deny their essence.

The very act of pressing the shutter of a camera is a decontextualization. It is a process of interpretation that Meiselas seems to dimiss in her own work, because (and with good reason) she maintains the importance of the events themselves. Moreover, her distinction between riot and revolution is itself interpretation. What is a riot if not part of a revolution? The use of "Molotov Man" as an archetype of struggle, an emotional emblem of the spirit of riot and revolution, is far from "diminishment of his act of defiance." It is rather a celebration of it and a sound declaration of the power of the image.

-- Henry Jacobson, Los Angeles