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The Importance of Martha Gellhorn

Nov 20th, 2018 • Uncategorised

This post is about honesty in reporting, something that is important for photographers as well as writers and broadcasters.  It is not only about Martha Gellhorn, but she is a shining example who stays in my mind.  This revisiting of Gellhorn, and other writers, has come about after my three year personal review of my forest documentation that the current exhibition has allowed me

During my artist talk on Sunday 18th November 2018 in Mandurah I was talking about the importance of taking sides when documenting a political or environmental event.  Only by becoming partisan can one truthfully engage with the subject and gain the trust necessary to document the events.  As an example I referred to Gellhorn.  As Martha herself said "I don't go in for all that objectivity bullshit"

'Objectivity' is this sense is abused, like the other press euphenisms, 'impartiality' 'fairness' and 'balance', by such journalistic luminaries as Andrew Bolt, The Bolt Report, Sky News, to dismiss the ABC and anyone who is against media monopoly; fracking; Adani; coal use or forest clearing as a bunch of mindless, leftard, greenie propaganda merchants.  The irony is lost on Bolt, who is not a bright boy

Objectivity, of course, has a more useful meaning, as in truth to the event (object) before one, as TD Allman put it "Genuine objective journalism not only gets the facts right, it gets the meaning of events right. . . It is journalism that ten, twenty, fifty years after the fact still holds up a true and intelligent mirror to events". found in/on Pilger J ed. Tell Me No Lies 1988.  This is what I believe I am achieving in my forest work

Martha Gelhorn getty images

Martha Ellis Gellhorn (November 8, 1908 – February 15, 1998) American novelist, travel writer, and journalist who is considered one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century. She reported on virtually every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career. Gellhorn was also the third wife of American novelist Ernest Hemingway, from 1940 to 1945. She died in 1998 in an apparent suicide at the age of 89, ill and almost completely blind
Abs. from Wikipedia.  Portrait stolen from Gety Images

As well as the engagement and immediacy of her writing I am aware of how she adopted the presence of the journalist in the story in the way Thomas Woolfe, the second Thomas Woolfe, described in his book New Journalism in the 1970s.  (Where is my copy of this book?  Who have I lent it to?)

She was the first war carrespondent to enter Dachau in 1945, but having been married to Ernest Hemmingway, she was prepared for anything

Martha Gellforn book cover

Now go to your favourite second hand book seller and buy her books, I ordered a couple more yesterday, Face of War and Travels with Myself and Another, there are heaps out there

 

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