Wednesday, July 15, 2009
On my mind for a long time is the idea that aggression plays in making pictures.
Teaching a workshop in the center of Kuala Lumpur, I was not five feet away when a commotion started. One of my students was involved with a local who cleverly asked to see his camera. Then he grabbed it & threw it to the ground. He was upset that my friend had taken his picture.
Taking someone’s picture is an aggressive action. Despite all the urban myths about “stealing someone’s soul” or being against their religion, including a person in your photography can be misconstrued as an invasion act.
I was on the telephone with Nevada Wier of Santa Fe, New Mexico, an amazing photographer, who specializes in the Far East. She brought up the fact that she did not appreciate the words “shoot”, “take” & “get” as they applied to photography, that they were too aggressive. I compared my experiences playing football.
Several days before a big game, in practice, I started to assess my injuries: an ankle might hurt & so I could not turn left on it well. As the date neared I would evaluate my opponent. What were his strengths? Could he cover my moves? Was he as fast as me? The day before the game the adrenalin would kick in & the butterflies would occupy my stomach. By the time I hit the field I was so psyched up I was practically frothing at the mouth. The same for when I photographed big events: the Olympics, Democratic National Convention, Mardi Gras, public marketplaces. It is hard to “get” good pictures because of the competition or the environment, if you were not hyper alert & somewhat aggressive. We used to say we had sharpened our elbows.
Nevada said she did not relate to the sports metaphor. Her counter was that she was never aggressive, she was assertive.
I like that.