“You can’t do that!” she said.
“It’s an invasion of that person’s privacy.” she replied.
What commenced was a long drawn out conversation about privacy and ethics in photography.
As a photographer I have this ethical dilemna. While I believe as a photographer I am a witness – I want to photograph the good and bad of humanity, and awhile ago I wrote a piece for Brave New Traveler exploring the ethical dilemna that war photographers go through.
Often times I write to get to the bottom of how I think and feel.
So while I was contemplating my friend’s problem with me taking pictures of a homeless man, I came across a strip club. No one had problems of me taking pictures of a strip club. Snap! I wondered why there was such a large amount photographic content concerning women in compromising positions. Snap! Snap!
But this is standard fare. Women are used as commodities to sell things – as Vered so succinctly pointed out in her blog.
And how far will we go to sell things?
Then I had to go back and reexamine my thinking about the post featuring Annie Leibovitz, and her photograph of Giselle Bundchen and Lebron James. Okay, I reasoned. Giselle and Lebron are okay with it, so therefore…it’s okay. But is it okay?
Often people in denial, those that lead the unexamined life, think things are okay. Child molesters think that what what they do is okay.
In advertising there is such a thing called subliminal seduction. The seduction part of this type of photography is that it plays on our fears, our desires, and our unconcious feelings toward stereotypes. We buy into it because it’s unconscious. Because it’s below the surface – like our attitudes towards women and the fact that Pamela Anderson can suck on a cherry in the most provocative of ways while the headline beside her screams Getting Intimate With John McCain. Yes, that’s right. In the same color as the cherry.
I believe photography in its highest form is there to tell a story. It is there to tell the truth. Because if you can show people the up front and center truth, as photographers did during the Vietnam War, maybe people will get angry. Maybe things can change and wars can end.
And while I’m taking a photograph of a homeless man, showing the reality of his life, advertisers are marketing the newest sexy thing to my eight-year-old daughter. And believe me, sexual marketing is aimed at younger and younger age groups these days. What was once aimed at your average sixteen year old is now aimed at the average six year old.
So I have to ask you, is it wrong for photographers to to document human despair and suffering? Or is it wrong for advertisers to play on peoples’ fear and ignorance in order to make a lot of money?
Or do I have it all wrong? Have I framed the debate the wrong way?
It’s up to you. You decide. What is your lens of perception?
Photocredit: © Ellen Wilson