Sunday, January 13, 2008


Tonight Tab and I had dinner at the house of some friends. We don't know them well. They know I'm a photographer but that's about the extent of it. They don't really have a clear sense of what it is I do. About halfway through dinner I pulled out my camera and began taking photos of them. I didn't say anything. I just started shooting as I do when I'm near anyone I know. I figured, screw it, this is who I am and deal with it. Which is a rather rude attitude to assume as a guest, but anyway...The man was a good photo subject. He was very natural and didn't really change his behavior. I got some good shots. The woman was very different. She wasn't at all comfortable in front of the camera. Every time I lifted it to my face she smiled blandly with a "snapshot-time" face. Finally, after she realized I wasn't going to put the camera down, she attempted to get out of the photo. She leaned far over to the side to escape my field of vision, and lo and behold there was the photo: Her leaning over and him looking casual. But I didn't take the shot. It felt invasive. I realized in that moment that I will never be Arbus.


Anonymous said...

but THAT was the photo you wanted. you said it felt a little strange to just start snapping these people that didn't really know you, yet to that, you said, 'the hell with it.' you were already out of bounds, why not venture just a little bit further? we've taught ourselves to see, to process our work, and to be tenacious. is it possible that we might also train ourselves to leap when our instinct clearly says JUMP? - dp

J. Karanka said...

So funny, we posted about Arbus the same day. I shoot invasive pictures as far as I can somehow justify that the image was worth it by itself. Even of my friends, the only images that work are to some extent either intrusive or lacking collaboration.

Nick said...

Seems a little strange to pull back when the discomfort has already been caused (but I suspect I'd exactly the same).

Anonymous said...

Deliberate Grace! I think that's the secret....i think there is a certain grace in being deliberate in what you do, whether it's crossing the street or raising your camera, framing an image, collecting the image, bringing the camera back down to your side, and walking on to collect another image somewhere else, maybe only a footstep away.

i'm convinced people love deliberate people around them, maybe it resonates something that makes them think everything is ok....i really don't know, but i do know that you can deliberately collect an image of someone that is standing right in front of you without them taking offence, but even if you're standing across the road from them and you have even an ounce of anxious emotion inside of you, in the seconds that it takes for you to raise your camera the entire block of people will be looking at you as if you are about to mug them!

Personally i 'try' never to collect, and i 'do' never "provide-back" an image of a person that i would not feel proud to confess to if one day i came by chance to be playing pool with them in a pub. I always had this ethic, but it wasn't until i was in a local bar and this actually happened to me that i appreciated that this was actually my ethic. i think having an ethic can give you a feeling of entitlement to confidently collect images of public spaces.

that's just my opinion... ;-)

Anonymous said...

"Deliberate Grace"
Nicely put Joe.

There is something about people who are assertive and confident in what they do that make people relax.
Pilots, dentists and even street photographers...

Nice to read some intelligent comments on this intelligent blog.