Saturday, March 17, 2007

To Haiti

Hey Matthew, sorry for not getting back to you sooner. you can probably rescue the pictures you shot with the wrong white balance. you'll just have to do it in photoshop.

it is really tough taking pictures in strange place particularly in rural haiti where skin so clearly delineates who one is. one thing i tried was to limit the space in which to shoot (like someones house which is a distance from others) and then begin by shooting the obligatory posed photos then as your subjects begin to get more comfortable with the camera, the sound of it, it's imposing lens, it should get easier to capture something more natural -- as they begin to forget or at least adapt to the presence of the foreign things. the point is that you don't swoop in shutter flying, scanning, but rather you take the time to develop a relationship, they begin to see you as a person and you them rather than you as a slave to a machine which inoculates and extracts and them as potential souvenirs. "real" normalcy, if it exists in relation to photography, exists only through the cultivation of relations between you and other subjects. they need to trust you in order to act freely and normally. you must be sensitive to "the other" person, or they will, with good reason, feel exploited. you are after all capturing a part of their person and habitus, and could potentially appropriate and exploit their "exoticism." so I think you must be sensitive to them and their desires, treating them as fully formed people, rather than as objects to be captured or consumed. so the goal of the photo is to say something about the essence of the subject and attempt to capture the spirit of a way of being or something like that. but then the doubt remains as to whether that spirit or essence existed prior to your perception/delusion. but at that point maybe it doesn't matter as much and photography should be enjoyed as a process/experience without regard for the "final" product. that the pleasure and the relations it builds between and across difference makes it worthwhile and the images and impressions that result as frozen fragments are just co-incidental byproducts of a way of being human in the world. if this is the case it seems as if "realism" or "total-vision" as the optimal goal of photography (in which the photographer functions as an omniscient narrator who is constantly attempting to remove any traces of his presence) becomes less important then the play between subjects. photography is then a study of human interaction, humans responding to you and you to them, rather than centered around the box you/they are framed with. in a small way you become conscious that what you see through your camera, the way you frame the world, is the way in which you want to see the world and be seen in it (that is, your trip to haiti, your presence in haiti, will be presented through your images, you will be seen through your images). i could ramble on in an even less coherent fashion but this is perhaps enough.

all this said, it is extremely difficult to overcome social/self-consciousness without fearing you are trampling on the desires of others.

i wish i was there to try it with you


A young girl watches the action. Matthew Wenger

This photo is a good illustration of what happens when a subject forgets the prescence of the camera: the freezing of the essence or spirit of beauty; a beauty which lies entrenched in "natural," or better, inexplicable, human emotion. Matthew has carefully composed this picture with layered focal points lending the viewer a way of contextualizing the environment of the place it reflects. The centering lines which constitute the tables in the background draw the viewer's eye back to the subject of the image. The careful framing of the head of the young girl against the brown square mat on the gray wall behind her further propels the subject to the front of the image. This, in combination with the delicate balance of light, particularly the rim lighting on her face, makes the image of this girl want to leap off the one-dimensional surface to which she is bound. Seen as a combination of elements and read as one would read music or a haiku this image attempts to reflect in inscription “the very emptiness of a note of music” (Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs, 76) whose mystery remains despite our best efforts and affections as “natural” and inexplicable as a tree, a moon, or a human mind. This is the best photo I have seen from Matthew yet . . . .


Anonymous Harlan said...

Nice Matt. Darren, I think you would like to read an essay written by Melvin Lehman about the Kingdom of God. You can find a link to it in the General Christian theology section of MD. He touches on finding a "sense-able" theology. -Harlan

11:37 AM  
Blogger Meredith said...

Though I haven't taken photography courses, I too noticed the way the girl's head was outlined in light. It's a lovely photo! Edith

7:04 AM  
Anonymous Matthew said...

it is interesting to note that none of these elements were in my conscious thought when I snapped this picture. I was taking pictures in general at the time but had paused momentarily when I suddenly spotted this girl and instictively snapped her picture in that moment without time to think. I hope that there was at least some subconscious forces at work and that it wasn't merely chance. time will tell.

9:33 PM  

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