this too
Friday, June 10, 2005
  Hijos del Destino
Currently on show at my university workplace are photos by Donna DeCesare, Hijos del Destino: Images of Youth Violence in Latin America. Some of these are also in her online photo-essay/fotonovela, Edgar’s Story.

Much as I welcome and devour photographs on line, I usually find viewing an exhibition of prints a more intense and aesthetically satisfying experience. This time I was much more moved by, drawn into, the online essay – moving quickly from one photo to the next and viewing the bilingual text alongside suited the subject particularly well, I thought.

Both in print and on line, I found these candid, disturbing and involving. They also fed into my current ponderings on the ethics of photographing people, as I start very tentatively to try this myself.
I find myself completely unable to photograph people, much as I would like to. How do I know they wouldn't mind? I'd have to ask them first. But then I wouldn't get a candid shot, which is all I'd be interested in taking. It's a dilemma.
I guess you have to just start in and do it. A zoom lens helps, since you can be a lot farther away. So does being in a city. I sometimes focus on something off to the side, and then switch the view at the last minute to frame the person without them noticing, or I hold the camera off to the side, not up to my eye at all - techniques learned from J., who does a lot of street photography of strangers.
Would you try that with an Amish person, Beth? Some people really do not appreciate having their images captured in this way, and in the age of the Internet, you have to concede that they may have a point. I've noticed Abdul-Walid, though far from Amish, never shows people's faces in his blog.
This post (I haven't had time to go view the photos yet, but will when I can) and comments reminded me of an article I came across on "culturally sensitive photograph" here.

I find it hard to photograph people also. In Mexico I rarely did, except people in the Easter processions, which is expected by the participants. My friend Maddy took some clandestine photos (her camera makes no noise) while appearing to be adjusting her settings. I know other photographers who simply ask if it's okay. Some people are fine with it, some refuse, some ask for money. I think it's generally impolite not to ask first, unless you're far away and/or unnoticed, or you're at a public event where having one's photo taken is not unexpected.
I love you people! Thank you for knowing what I might be thinking even before I say it. The few friends to whom I've expressed my qualms about photographing people have been giving me very funny looks - even when they were the person I wanted to photograph and they clearly weren't comfortable with it, they didn't want to talk about it - I guess they thought they were being weird and oversensitive. Leslee, thank you for the article. I'll probably be writing more about this. I know there's a lot I could read on and around the subject,and I'm sure I will, but I wanted to grope a bit through my own thoughts and other people's immediate responses before I start doing that.
Well, I enjoy candid pictures of people so much that I reckon if someone wants to to take my picture unbeknownst to me they have to be welcome to it.

What Beth said about city photography makes a lot of sense to me. In a modern city you're on film quite a lot anyway, there being a remarkable number of surveillance cameras around. I just assume I'm being photographed one way or another, downtown, and I don't mind someone who might actually have a higher purpose than guarding their gold take a shot of me as well.

Though of course exceptions abound, and most of the great photographs of people I've seen have come from that uncomfortable exception-ground. Certainly being photographed in my own front yard would make me uneasy. Hmm.
This isn't something I've ever thought about so, although I have nothing useful to contribute, your post and the comments are very interesting to me. And I'm glad you're still blogging, for however long or short a time that may be.
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Freelance copy-editor and translator. Keen on language, literature, photography, art, music, buddhist meditation and the countryside.

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