5. Case History

I offer the following as a response, albeit an incomplete one, to many of the concerns expressed above. It is the story of a project produced in the early days of the Web which attempted to create a photojournalism that is responsive to world events, the reader’s concerns, and the possibilities of utilizing the Web for more complex and pertinent communication. “Bosnia: Uncertain Paths to Peace,” was a Web site presented by the New York Times for three months in the summer of 1996. It originated with a suggestion that I made as consulting editor to the New York Times on the Web near the end of 1995. The enthusiastic response of Kevin McKenna, then the editorial director there, the support of Mark Bussell, a senior editor, and the upscaling of the project by Martin Nisenholtz, president of the New York Times Electronic Media Company, were crucial in making this foray possible.

My choice of the photographer Gilles Peress to work on this project, someone with whom I had collaborated on several other projects going back more than 15 years, was out of respect for his commitment to photographing the conflict in Bosnia over a number of years but most especially out of respect for his ability to view himself as an author in the most complete sense possible. I was aware from the very beginning that the photographer would have to be centrally involved in the creation of such a project, because all my years of working as a picture editor were insufficient to the multi-linear, multi-media editing required. I could not simply pick the “best” images and string them together, bemoaning the imagery that had to be left out, but I needed the photographer to articulate the multiple meanings of each image as a way of discerning the multiple linkages to other images and other media. As the actual eyewitness who was aware not only of what was within each frame but of that which remained outside the frames, both spatially and temporally, the photographer had to play a large role as author. In this need to interrogate every image for possible meanings there was a sharper sense of my own distance as editor from the events and people being depicted and, not surprisingly, a heightened desire to understand them. (I think for example of the picture of the dead man on the ground that I had selected from contact sheets before Gilles returned from Bosnia but turned out to be an image of an actor in a feature film already being made on the conflict in Sarajevo just as the shelling had stopped.)