Twice last week, I repeated a ‘rule’ for photographing in public: “Anyone in public space is fair game,” I said, “except children and the indigent. If a person can’t participate in society, making a photograph of them without their knowledge seems unethical.”
I bristle at the phrase ‘fair game’. I could, probably should, qualify the rest and say ‘can’t be reasonably expected’ ‘participate in full’ ‘without their full participation in the construction of their image’. But the idea remains the same; as soon as I pick up a camera and point the lens at someone, there’s an exchange, and, depending on the person I’ve framed, it’s very easy for that exchange to become exploitation. It’s a fundamental idea that can be extrapolated infinitely to interrogate every and all social encounters and relationships.
So what of other things? I was driving to my mother’s house yesterday. The road cuts through tight parcels of corporate farmland. The road cuts… Yesterday was hazy. Defused afternoon light hit the newborn rows of corn? sugar cane? I wondered how I might photograph that scene. Include the road? Cut it out? Was the haze because of heat? Pollution? Both? Something else?
I wondered how I might photograph that scene. After settling into the golden afternoon, I wondered how I might photograph it. I do photograph the road and the things I see as I’m driving. I think about palm trees cotched up against drive-thrus. And lonely looking streetlights. And guard rails. But, I don’t think about how making those photographs perpetuates… Every photograph replicates this world.
I didn’t make a photograph yesterday. It’s doing by non-doing, right? Or, perhaps, just creative stagnation.