Growing Powers

Rune Eraker
Today saw Rune Eraker deliver a wonderful presentation on the suitably titled topic ‘’Dream of Europe’’. Mr. Eraker opened his lecture by addressing the subject of photography and his work in this field. He explained how he considered himself both an artist and a photo documenter. Beginning the lecture by outlining how he would display his exhibition on ‘’Borderless People’’, Mr. Eraker introduced his subject before providing the audience with an engaging and memorable presentation. This presentation was certainly one of the more captivating of the entire Summer School due to its usage of powerful imagery throughout. In all Mr. Eraker showcased eight different stories to the audience all through the vacuum of imagery. These exhibitions varied in their content from the case of young North African men (refugees) seeking to enter into mainland Europe through Gibraltar to the fascinating story of a Cuban woman and a much older Norwegian man’s relationship that proved controversial to many. Mr. Eraker outlined his own personal vision of these exhibits; which was to highlight the similarities between people across the world and to free people of the stigma of ‘’us & them’’.
Focusing on many differing dynamics, Mr. Eraker allowed the audience to fully comprehend the various aspects of his craft by using the imagery as a basis for highlighting those stories he felt most passionately about. Certainly his use of imagery in relation to his story about Cuba emphasised the differing nature of societies across the globe. While the example of the couple was interesting, it was his revelation that a trade of both men and woman to the western world exists today that truly evoked powerful sentiments among the audience. Using the poignant image of two Western men bragging about their shameful actions in Cuba reflected the shocking culture that exists in many areas of society today that we would essentially like to ignore. This explanation drew a strong response from the audience and Mr. Eraker had certainly succeeded in providing his audience with a template to examine and interrogate.
Summarising his different topics briefly, Mr. Eraker travelled around the world from Paris, to Cuba and Zambia to reflect the polarized nature of people within society today. Particularly touching was his story of two Norwegian models based in Paris, one had essentially succeeded, but after a year in the industry the damage to her health was such that she simply could not continue in the business any longer. This moved many in the audience, as did the story of the Burmese refuges attempting to gain entry to the Western world through Malaysia. One of the key attributes of Mr. Eraker that quickly became apparent during his presentation was his willingness to confront issues that others may perceive to be off limits. This style has contributed to his success in this field over the last twenty years and undoubtedly it helped earn him the complete focus of his audience today.
Concluding his wonderfully imaginative exhibition, by explaining the motives behind his work, he emphasised that it essentially is politically motivated, but stressed he never becomes too attached to those featured in his work as it is not appropriate in his field. A common theme throughout was the idea of us and them, a premise that Mr. Eraker based his exhibition around in the hope of ridding people of this predicated notion. Ultimately, this exhibition/presentation succeeded in its objectives and allowed those present to totally immerse themselves into the various situations outlined so carefully by Eraker. Certainly it was an hour and a half that will be remembered fondly by all in attendance for a considerable period of time.
The second and final lecture of today was delivered on the intriguing and pertinent subject of ‘’People and Power, international responsibility of global media’’. This lecture delivered by Ivor Gaber focused on two main areas. One the anomaly that is Rupert Murdoch and the other part of the presentation focused on Nigeria, ‘’Fair Media, Fair Elections’’. Both parts to the lecture were rewarding in the sense that they provided each person in attendance with a complete overview on the parameters of the issues involved and the important and at times irresponsible role played by the media in the world today. Beginning by outlining his views on the force that is globalization, Mr. Gaber availed of this reference to suitably move the discussion along to the aforementioned Murdoch.
Opening his study on Murdoch by revealing the vast scale of his global empire, Mr. Gaber proceeded to give a phenomenally forceful narrative on the influence Mr. Murdoch exerts through his empire today and whether this influence is actually on the wane? Opening by outlining Murdoch’s rise to prominence, a picture of Murdoch was given to the audience that would be hard to find anywhere on the web today. Using revealing details of politician’s involvement with Murdoch’s news machines, a pattern of deceit and miss-trust was created that provided all in attendance with much to ponder. However, the goal of Mr. Gaber was not to force the audience to think in a particular manner, therefore he did not just emphasise the negative aspects of Mr. Murdoch, instead he showcased an array of examples highlighting several facets of his character and influence which allowed the crowd to draw their own individual conclusions on this topic. Reflecting the influence personalities such as Murdoch exert or believe they hold over people across the world was also another major aspect to this part of the presentation. Murdoch’s role in the Leveson inquiry was examined and his reaction to the events of the last year in particular were utilised as the basis for an interesting discussion on this area. Allowing the audience to adopt their own views on this area, Mr. Gaber utilised an array of imagery and videos to help them come to their own conclusions.
The next part of the lecture focused on journalism in Nigeria and in particular a project, Gaber himself played a key role in called ‘’Free Media, Fair Elections’’. Explaining how a country as large as Nigeria faces endless difficulties today both in terms of its media and society, Mr. Gaber outlined the pretext behind this scheme. The backdrop was the elections of 2009 and, Gaber along with his colleagues were sent to Nigeria to demonstrate to local journalists the art of proper journalism. Providing the audience with a condensed but important background of these people, Gaber addressed issues such as their style of work and the accuracy of their reporting. He once again re-enforced the concept that the media in this area struggles for a wide variety of reasons. Interestingly he outlined how their programmes had similar characteristics to that of journalists in the western world but warned of the corruption within the region.
He recalled being informed by one Nigerian lady that she could only publish news that had been ‘’paid’’ for and therefore the corruption within the Nigerian media was clear for all to witness. The programme which Mr. Gaber was involved in strived to eradicate these anomalies from society; however this was much easier in theory than in practice. Recalling the programme, Mr. Gabe highlighted the successes of the programme and remembered fondly the wave of journalists who were assisted in some manner through this initiative. However, the decision to halt the programme until 2013 drew criticism from Mr. Gaber who felt that a meaningful sustained change in the media could only be achieved if the programme had remained operational. Certainly, the choice of Nigeria as an example gained the approval of the audience due to their understanding of the country’s’ dysfunctional nature. Citing the problems of religious tensions and economic divisions, it was highlighted in a number of simple but powerful ways that the media within Nigeria has a long road to travel if it is to be an effective instrument within society like some of its Western counterparts.
Nearing the end of what truly was both an informative and thought provoking lecture, Mr. Gaber outlined the role of social media in society today and how this is now an ever changing process with the ability to shape the way some but crucially not all aspects of the media are conducted. Explaining that the media today is facing challenges to its longevity in the traditional sense due to the growing technological advancements in society, he expressed his belief that innovations such as pay and read online (as seen for the Times) will become more common place in the not too distant future. Reflecting on the power men such as Murdoch had amassed, he outlined his personal belief that these so-called ‘’empires’’ will never again be repeated and that due to the evolving nature of society, the media of tomorrow will be much more responsible and trustworthy than has previously been the case. Concluding on a positive note, Mr. Gaber engaged with the audience in what was at times an opinionated discussion; that opened the floor to many participants for them to illustrate their own views on this exact area. Ending the discussion with a sincere message of thanks, Mr. Gaber received a deserving round of applause that left him for once speechless. A link to this lecture can be found here: