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Hope • Posted: May 04, 2008 17:32:45Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

A quiet neighborhood, a well manicured yard, an understated but prominently displayed American flag. What is the message?

It has always troubled me to ponder the myriad ways communications can go wrong. Hand a penny to someone and they receive a penny. There is no mistake, no distortion, no confusion. But write something, speak something, display a picture and what is received is seldom congruent with, much less identical to that which has been sent. Certainly the words or picture can be repeated back or described, but there is always always always at least a subtle mismatch of intellectual and emotional impact. Meaning for receiver only roughly resembles meaning for sender.

So many friendships, so many familial relationships, so many marriages, and so many political alliances fail because trust in one another's mutual understanding of something crumbles. An obscure but highly important detail for one party suddenly apparently does not even exist for the other. Trust is shaken, shattered. Solidarity becomes suspicion.

What is the antidote for suspicion and mistrust? What is the cure for miscommunication?

I am here reminded of a group of photographers, one in particular, who called themselves the "Concerned Photographers". Mostly they photographed war. Their pictures, Don McCullum's especially, took on a kind of organization that compelled one to ask: what in the world do we think we are doing?? I don't know if that is what he intended viewers to think, but that is what I thought. I don't think he could have intended a better question. I also have the lingering impression he quit doing photography because he felt so impotent in the face of that question. I can only sympathize.

There are many reasons to display an American flag. One understated reason is to present it as a symbol of something hoped for. There are so very many things that can be hoped for. One perhaps would be an inspiring answer to Don McCullum's question.

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006