Witnessed (This is who I am)

Steve Marshall: 28 April 2018

Steve Marshall: 28 April 2018

Offering witness through photography is an incredible privilege.

Yet turning the camera on myself is never easy.


Though I mostly use chunky, heavy gear, I also have some very small cameras which fit in the palm of my hand. The thing is, even though I am 6'2" tall, I can still hide behind them.

So, last week I took a step towards the dark side and spent a few days alongside @nicaskew working with video. 

Nic's approach is deceptively simple; just put the camera onto the subject and... nothing else... As he says, there is, "Nothing to fix. Nothing to do. No-one to do it." It's that easy, and that difficult. Take a look at his (beautiful) films over at Soul Biographies.

We live in visual world that mediated by filters, photo-shop and other masks or cloaking devices; turning up with our selfies on Instagram and Snapchat all posed, poised and polished.  We are rarely seen for who we are.

I know, that through my photography, I aspire for something else. 

Yet in witnessing another person, there is connection, respect and care, and it doesn't need a camera.  

In one exercise, I worked with Patricia Ramaer, an artist and photographer (whose fine art work, by the way, is simply stunning.)  Though I could hold Patricia in my gaze, finding affection and humanity in the eyes of someone previously unknown to me, when we exchanged roles I just couldn't maintain eye contact...

Several times I had to break away and regain composure; the incredible experience of really being 'seen' by another human was almost too much. Patricia's care of me was exquisite but it took a while for me to face into the vulnerability, intensity, exposure and intimacy; there was nowhere to hide.  

While consultants, coaches and change agents everywhere tell us to 'fully show up' in our workplaces, to be our 'whole selves', I don't think it's that easy.

But today I am trying to show up on the blog just as I am.  If I put the people in front of my camera  through this then I should at least know how I inhabit that space...

Of all the pictures I made, somehow this one felt most authentic.

This is who I am. Still struggling to hold your gaze.



Take a look at Rose Kumar's or Judith Johnson's blogs on bearing witness via Huffington Post.

"...no masks, no bargains..."  Ever since I read Margaret Wheatley's poem 'Flawless', I've been going back to it.