Our Creative Freedom To Observe

April 05, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

A photography contest prompted our creative work and how it relates to our freedom. What drives international and contemporary photographic practices, they asked.  Further in prompting they said - what is our language as photographers, our visual language. What are we saying? How does what we say elevate the social conscious? In 1941 President Roosevelt outlined our four basic freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. These three questions they wrote struck me the most:  What is freedom?  Are we more free by isolating ourselves from unknown others or are we more free by being able to exercise and enjoy our basic human rights? How do we respond to and counter those ideas with alternative perspectives?

While I don't relate to these questions on a political level. They provoked me on an artistic level. Specifically on the topic of privacy.  I don't like having my picture taken. I never have. With the advent of cell phones - random capturing occurs everywhere you go. I feel like people should ask me my permission. May I take your picture?  Yet, I admit that probably some of the very best shots of me are when I had no idea that someone was photographing me. I actually like this. Someone saw something in me to casually pause that moment in a photograph.  How great is that!  This however can be a very fine line.  I won't go into the legal aspects of this topic, because i am not an expert on it, and the conversation has too many opinion nuances to it. I will say this, over the years as I've developed myself as a photographer I have become very good at honoring privacy. Almost to the point of paranoia. When some asks where everyone's heads are ....that might be a little too private, yet, as a style of capturing, I sometimes prefer it.  Over time, my photography work has taken on a narrative role. I believe you can say a lot about a person without revealing their full identity.  I admire the street photography genre - I'd say that most of it is probably not taken with signed consent. It doesn't need to be. It just needs to be mindful.  Especially in a public space.  If you are a person looking out a window in a public place - that's fair game.  If you are a crumpled heap asleep on a sidewalk, that's a very public place. I think in the spirit of observing, that when I see something that makes me want to pull out my camera, that moment is altered completely if have to ask that subjects permission. I also think as a creative my freedom to express myself is also in that moment.  It's like painting something pink that should be blue ...you do it that way because you can. I have had more than a few people say that zooming in on a crowd is voyeuristic ...i'd say that if that practice was exploiting or violating perhaps so, but if you look at some of the gritty, in your face photography. that stuff is real and in the moment and there is no fine line. that photographer is observing it with every click of the shutter.

I didn't submit to this particular contest because the fee was prohibitive for me. I did however think on it. quite a bit. I also gathered a few photographs that I feel example how I respect a persons privacy and engage in my right to express myself creatively. To narrate and speak as I see things. I do love the idea of provocative topics and projects in photography. I admire the tenacity and risk, and projects are often very inspiring to me







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Photography = a never ending opportunity to capture visual celebrations. 


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