Seen

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When my photography is at it's best, I know that I really 'see' people.....and in response, they know that they have been 'seen'.

 

I never seem to know what I really think about anything until the words actually tumble out of my mouth.   The caption above above fell into conversation when a good friend asked what my photography was 'all about'...

So I reminded myself how much I love those often incidental moments of connection - like when I bumped into William or met Mark.

Sometimes, like in my homepage picture, I even see myself ...  and that can be scary.

Photography has the power to enable each of us 'show up' in our relationships and organisations. This is the dynamic that runs through so much of my work; no matter who we are, at a very deep level we need others to witness us.

Even though we wear our masks, we need to know that we matter, to know that, for someone, we exist.

Yet of late, the capacity of the photograph has hit the press again as it has offered a rather different form of witness. Violent crime in London has hit a surprise peak and showing gang violence on social media to further humiliate the victims has become another version of  internet banging.

Power is deeply encoded into photography. Susan Sontag has written that 'there is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera.' She says that photographs 'appropriate' and 'incriminate', that they turn people into objects to be 'symbolically possessed.'  Catherine Zuromskis follows  Sontag's arguments via her article 'On Snapshot Photography' and concludes that photography is able to both aid and undermine an underlying ideology. Zuromskis then points to the horrific Abu Ghraib images and asks us to consider whether photography was ultimately culpable of the atrocities shown or whether the revelatory nature of the medium has helped to shift the nature of the violent relationship that underpin the images.

As ever with these questions, I imagine the answer is, again, an inconclusive 'both'. 

But what remains is the power of photography to amplify our sense of who we are in the world. Ultimately, I think that photography raises a critical ethical question.

As a consequence, we must use our cameras well and publish (in whatever form that takes) wisely.

Photographs change our worlds.

 

Notes: 

You can find Catherine Zuromskis' article in 'Photography: Theoretical Snapshots

Back when I was studying photography in college, Susan Sontag's 'On Photography' was a key text and is still a fascinating read.

Steve MarshallComment