As a photographer, when you put your work into the hands of editors you have to trust that they have the same intentions as you. I have seen my interpretation of my own photographs change before my eyes when juxtaposed with words I did not write. It is remarkable how often an article or a caption can completely alter the context and reading of a photograph and underscores the importance of a working relationship where respect and trust and paramount.
It is a shame that there is not more collaboration in the industry between all the people who put an article together. I always thought that the writer, photographer, editor and designer should all be working together while the truth is that often the pieces are assembled without the input of the producers. A good editor is so important. I think this is the reason why many people are embracing the ideas of self publishing and distribution today, so they can have editorial control. Once your work is out there then it can be appropriated and used to further a multitude of agendas and it is near impossible to stop that, but it is also important that in the initial presentation it is put forward in the correct context. That way, you are not backtracking and having to say “No, what I meant was …” You will have the context and be able to point to it directly as an anchor.
My initial reaction to the caption on the cover was that it turned the photograph into a propaganda tool to support the war, rather than what I think was Jodi Bieber's original intention with this image, which was to show that this woman is still beautiful despite having her face mutilated, and to draw attention to the barbaric acts of violence perpetrated against Aisha and other women in Afghanistan. I believe that that is most likely what Aisha also thought as she posed for the photograph. She may also support the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan. I do not know.
What I do know is that the idea that the war is justified and it’s continuation will prevent this from happening is a matter for debate, and is not a fact, as TIME’s cover copy would imply. It turns the personal story of this woman into an archetypal illustration. That they focused on Aisha and not any of the other women photographed in the essay, which shows women in many different situations in Afghan society, many of whom are – for want of a better word – empowered, shows how far from the original intention of the photographic essay the editorial spin on the cover goes.
It is very obvious that this essay is about women in Afghanistan and not about why the war should be sustained. It is fine – and important – to state your opinion, but it should be clearly stated that this is an editorial opinion and not fact. In this instance, you might as well replace the TIME logo with one for the U.S. Military. With that one phrase on the cover, TIME have shown themselves to be propagandists and not reporters.