“To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge - and, therefore, like power.””
As much as I usually manage to avoid the phrase ‘take a photograph’ or, even worse, ‘take a shot’, I’m always uncomfortable about the acquisitional language that accompanies photography.
As the shutter clicks, I tell myself I am ‘making a photograph’, but a little shiver tells me that I have ‘captured’ the image.
Usually, someone else’s image.
And the shiver is reflected in the feeling that, for many people, to take a photograph is to take a soul.
So I hope the photographs we might make together are respectful, compassionate and hold to the intention of helping both subject and the viewer mutually see each other as well as themselves.
Yet the shadow of appropriation falls across our Western language and our collective psyche.
We speak of my job, my team, my friends, my organisation, in a way that denies the reality of how we are appropriated by our contemporary work and social arrangements rather than the other way round. And the overlay of personal identity and professional occupation means we can give our power away too easily or deny ourselves the opportunity to change, to transition to something new.
We are made by our relationships, our work, our colleagues and our friends. They define us.
But we shouldn’t let them take our souls.
Or allow our relationships to appropriate us.
Susan Sontag’s brilliant ‘On Photography’ has been around for a while but is still as relevant as ever. Likewise, John Berger’s, ‘Way’s of Seeing.’ The 4-part BBC program that informed the book is available on YouTube.
Or have a look at David DuChemin’s, The Soul of the Camera. It’s a masterful piece.