I’m slowly, and I do mean slowly, getting through the backlog of film I’ve exposed over the last 6 months. But as soon as I get a few rolls developed another group replaces those and adds to the pile. I go through these phases where the film piles up and I forget what I’ve actually made. I still have color stuff from January I haven’t even sent out to the lab yet. I’m not sure if I have an excuse with that group.
These two images are from an outing in February of this year. I like them but I doubt they will make it beyond the blog. Maybe they’ll grow on me, but I’m actually posting them more for what happened that day than the actual images themselves.
I’m not an outgoing person. When I’m out photographing, it’s especially hard for me to photograph people and it shows in my work. I’m rarely close enough. There is little interaction visible in the images and I’ve got one image that I’m proud of that actually defies my inabilities to connect. A street shooter I’m not despite repeated excursions locally.
On this day I did something out of the ordinary because it just presented itself. At the beginning of this jetty there was a man, obviously homeless, making camp for the night. As I walked past him I said hello, went out and shoot a couple of rolls of Tri-X and didn't give the interaction much thought. These two images are the ones that I scanned as potentials from that bit of time alone with the camera.
On my way back the gentlemen noticed I had been photographing and asked why I hadn’t taken a photo of him. Not knowing what to say, I answered with another question and wanted to know why he would ask me that. He said everyone with a camera always wanted to take a photo of him. He did have an interesting look and I could see that he would be photogenic.
So I stopped and talked to him for a while. I asked him how the request was usually made and he said there was hardly ever a request it was just people “snapping away like some paparazzi, as if I had no say in the matter.” He went on to say sometimes he got mad, sometimes he flipped them the bird and sometimes, if the photographer was a girl and pretty, he would smile his big smile and go about his business.
I told him that I didn't believe in making images of people without some sort of perceived permission, and since I was less than outgoing, I very rarely made images of people I didn’t know. And then I asked him how it felt to have people do this in such a thoughtless fashion.
It turned into a long discussion and I forgot about shooting any more that evening. But the jest of the conversation confirmed that making images of homeless people just to make an image, without any human connection involved, was the wrong thing to do. It has no place in my photography and the conversation, at least to me, justified my decisions over the years to not photograph people that are down on their luck.
I’ve always questioned these types of images and they have always bothered me. If I see them on someone's site without any explanation I automatically jump from the site. It’s a gut reaction, and in some cases, I’m sure there are valid reasons for the images. But I doubt it happens on a regular basis. I didn’t take an image of him that day but I hope I might have given him a different perspective on photographers, or at least some of us anyway.