One Response to Appropriating on Facebook: how to share during fieldwork

  1. Brian Gaschler says:

    Excellent points throughout. As a photographer that often focuses (if you’ll pardon the pun) on the genre of street photography, I am often conflicted by my motives to capture candid, seemingly banal moments of people going about their day, whilst simultaneously doing so through an an anthropological lens, if I might call it that. Anthropology, to me, is a way of attempting to see and understand the world around me — which is to say, an attempt to see and understand myself and others; which is also to say, to attend to power dynamics and the reification of subjevtivities as they are renegotiated through time. Yes, anthropology is a discipline, with all its historical roots within the larger social, political and biological sciences, and that makes it problematic at times. But an anthropological lens helps me see the banality of day-to-day life as actually quite unusual, or at any rate, peculiar to a specific time, place, space and people.

    It gets problematic because I’m more interested in essentialising that which I see, in a deliberate manner, and through that essentialisation, to essentialising myself and my perspectives. And that essentialisation is fraught with dangers of representation. ‘How then to proceed,’ is a question I frequently ask myself, given that I am increasingly interested in focusing on the ways the self portrays through the intercession of space, place and time. On the surface, I might suppose this question reveals why much of my recent work has strong undercurrents of political and social unrest, of alienation, discrimination, exoiticisation and isolation. Beyond supposing, I know I would like to see more of my personal work move toward these themes, because I feel there is a real story there: not the story of the person being photographed, per se; and certainly not in the photograph itself; but a story about the photograph’s viewers — a mirror of sorts, reflecting back a viewer’s own experience with political and social unrest; alienation; isolation; and so on. Sure, the story being told is individual, in that we all map out and project our subjectivities onto what we bear witness to, based on our personal histories, or in this case, to the photographs we view. But the story unfolding, then, is also the story of us, both individually and collectively. And that is where things get tricky for me, because photography is really about capturing a slice of time and presenting it as if a whole story is bound within its frames. But a photograph itself is ambiguous and tells us nothing. It is rather an invitation to deduction, nothing more. The real story unfolding is that of the viewers’, whose own personal history is what impresses their reception of the photograph before them.

    Susan Sontag and Judith Butler have written extensively about this. And I would like to see more written. I really appreciate your perspective on this, and the points you make will encourage me to carry and utilise my camera with even more caution than before.



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