Witnessed (This is who I am)
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.
"...no masks, no bargains..." Ever since I read Margaret Wheatley's poem 'Flawless', I've been going back to it.