The Importance of Truth

timesduterteIt is unsettling to me, someone who has spent the better part of his doing one form of journalism or another, that the brazen embrace of The Big Lie by politicians has become so prevalent that those of us who prefer facts over fiction find ourselves making a case for the importance of truth.

Certainly, the rise of Donald Trump from Manhattan con man to Tweeter-in-Chief and the both intentional and unwitting acceptance by his stooges and other supporters of his fact-free self-serving version of reality has not only fueled the outrage more than half of America feels about their incoming president’s manipulative use of the lie, but has also confronted journalists with a challenge they are increasingly lesser-equipped to face in this age of declining revenue: How to shine the light of truth onto the dark web of lies woven by Trump and his ilk.

I found one answer to this question in the unflinching photography and reporting by photographer Daniel Berehulak in today’s New York Times about the brutal ant-drug campaign by Philippine Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte has unleashed his nation’s police and armed forces on the citizenry. More than 2,000 Filipinos have been killed by authorities since June 30, when he took office, and another 3,500 slain in other unsolved murders. The slaughter – the word used in the headline of Berehulak’s piece – continues with impunity with each murder wrapped in an official lie. The dead, as described in police reports, are often accused of “nanlaban,” which Berehulak describes as “what the police call a case when a suspect resists arrest and ends up dead. It means ‘he fought it out.’ ”

Berehulak’s report, and his savagely honest images, expose Duterte’s lie. Will the truth deter Duterte and save lives? Probably not. But it informs us, we Americans who must now live in nation led by a man whose first instinct is self-preservation and whose first tool is the lie.

Trump and Duterte talked by phone a week ago. Trump applauded Duterte’s brutality and invited him to the U.S. Liars are attracted to one another (see Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin). They need – and use – one another as partners and foils against the truth.

Trump is mendacious (to say the least) and not murderous (for now), but his looming occupancy of the presidency highlights like never before in recent American history the need for truth and its importance to civil society and our democracy.

What can each of us do? One thing is to demand hard truths from journalism and support journalists and news organizations that deliver it. Many Americans are already doing this, as evidenced by the 70,000 new subscribers the New York Times has enrolled since Trump’s election. Truth comes with a price. If we want the truth that we need, then we must pay for it.

Grab Shots: Elizabeth Taylor, Before the Camera

Elizabeth Taylor, Philippe HalsmanElizabeth Taylor,who died Wednesday in L.A., was one of the most photographed woman of her generation and became a Hollywood icon in an era when stars were idolized by photographers (instead of chased). The classic lighting and poses are worth a look, no matter if you are a Liz fan or not. Here is a selection of images of Taylor. The ones from the early years are my favorites.

* Magnum Photos has a wonderful slideshow of classic Taylor images, including several by Philppe Halsman (left, for Life Magazine) and Burt Glinn.

* The New York Times, in addition to its lengthy obituary, also has a slideshow that contains still from Taylor’s movies. They’re worth a look for the lighting alone.

* In case you didn’t make it to any of Taylor’s weddings, Life Magazine has pulled together an album of them all.

* Life, again displaying the power of a deep archive, is touting this collection of “unpublished pics.” Click in a few to see Taylor, in full louche, with Montgomery Clift.

* Want to own your own Elizabeth Taylor photo? Click here to see the many for sale on eBay — $3.99 will get you an 8 x 10.

* For a moving (literally) tribute to Taylor by  N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott, watch this Times video on YouTube.

Grab Shots

* Bite Me, I’m an Art Director: Hey, if you’re going to rip off someone else’s cover concept, why not steal from among the best — the New York Times’ T Magazine? T chomped on Coast Magazine after the Orange County publication cloned one of its cover (see left). Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy –even for a food feature. Full story here.

* Quoted! “If I could tell a story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug a camera.” —Lewis Hine.

* Big Pixel Power:, the web presence of the Boston Globe newspaper, is serving up mega-size web images of powerful photojournalism. Check out this dramatic shot of the California fires, or this one of a starving Ethiopian woman.

* Shoot a Tornado: The new Nikon D700 apparently takes great weather pictures. (Via Nikon Watch.)

* In a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Brit photographer Steve Schofield crosses the bond to document life in the Queen’s former colony and finds — Americans cross-dressing as Star Wars characters.