Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some point

What's the point of taking a photograph if when it's taken you wish it wasn't.  Prudence stepped in between the moment something caught your eye and the camera met it.   You shoot it anyway.   It is so frustrating because you have the image and it looks good and then you have to grapple some more with P.   The winner?  In my case, sometimes P.   Although there's rarely a need for me to regret an image because they are mostly unregrettable.  Rocks are hardly going to complain.  And anything else is often out of focus - a bit like my eyesight.

Occasionally it's not and in the process of taking a photograph, capturing a fragment of a moment, a likeness, a portion of a person, my head goes into overdrive and... are we commenting on something about them, or asking others to?  Are we pausing them in whatever activity they are doing for a closer inspection?  With or without their permission we are not just pointing at them, we are recording whatever it was that made us point, and it is that which I am grappling with.

I wonder what self-talk artists/photographers go through to inwardly feel content in what they are preserving and publishing?    Look at the ever-raging discourse on Mapplethorpe's broad range of portraits and content.  Or Diane Arbus, did she struggle with her subject matter?  What about Philip-Lorca di Corcia with his surveillance-like tactics?  How did Robert Frank feel about it all?  Larry Clark? How does Martin Parr?  While I might be torn about what is the 'right' answer, it's a good job photographers through the ages haven't let themselves, or public opinion, censor their images because we'd be a whole lot poorer visually.  Perhaps it's a construct of the time we are living in - where torturous thought ends up leading to a succession of safe but bland imagery.

If the human condition is one of vulnerability and it affects us all - does that mean we don't photograph anything to do with it?  Or should we photograph all of it?  Is there a rule somewhere that tells us what about our vulnerability is ok to photograph and what isn't?  I never studied Ethics but there's a thing in my brain which nags away.  Does it come from so much consideration of the patriarchal gaze while at art school?  Have we got over that yet?  Moved on?

One time I worked with a group at a MIND centre - I gave them the cameras and they produced the best bunch of portraits I've seen in a long time, including one of me - my ass.   I could do with a bit of their attitude.

So with that in mind

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